Buying a pair of glasses is like choosing a fashion accessory, though the matter is more serious according to Marco Annibali, co-owner, Punto Ottico/Human Eyes, Milan. “One might use a Hermes bag for special occasions only. On the contrary, a pair of glasses is there on your face for about 18 hours a day. Plus, glasses tell so much about the personality of those who are wearing them. For this we only offer eyewear characterized by a special project and strictly focused on key principles such as top quality manufacturing, ethic, esthetic and design.” Interview by Maria Cristina Pavarini

Can you briefly describe what the concept of your store is?
This store belongs to a chain of stores all focused on the same philosophy and approach to the eyewear market. We always ask the companies we work with to certify how their frames - and generally glasses - are produced. We ask them to sell us products that are completely made in Italy, or made in highly qualified manufacturing areas such as, for instance, Europe, the US or Japan - in every single productive step.

Eyewear display at Punto Ottico/Human Eyes
Eyewear display at Punto Ottico/Human Eyes
For us this is very important because highly qualified and specialized manufacturers and laboratories can guarantee a quality level that cannot be compared to low-cost manufacturing areas. Through the years we stopped working – and gave up significant business opportunities - with brands and companies that had changed their attitude and didn't respect our compulsory rules. This store is part of a chain of stores, all specialized in the optical market. The first one was opened by Domenico Concato, also shareholder of this store, in Alte di Montecchio Maggiore, near Vicenza about 20 years ago. Then other stores opened in Verona, in San Bonifacio (near Vicenza), Brescia. The Milan store opened in 2009 and the one in New York opened in February 2012.

And how do you communicate your different approach to eyewear to your clients?
When serving them we like to take our time and explain to them how glasses are an object that adds beauty and personality to their face exactly as a fashion accessory does. Though there is a difference. In fact, one might use a Hermes bag for some special occasions only. On the contrary, a pair of glasses is on your face for about 18 hours of every single day. I also know people who wake up and, before deciding what to wear choose their pair of glasses for that day out of, for instance, 30 different pairs they own. In addition, a pair of glasses tells so much about the personality of those who are wearing them. Plus we also like to convey our passion for quality and detail to our customers, while also disclosing other products to them that are not sold everywhere, nor made by commercial brands which pay less attention to top quality manufacturing as we do. Our choice of glasses is done according to precise ethical, esthetic and personal criteria.

Eyewear display
Eyewear display
What are your bestselling brands and why?
Among our bestsellers there are Dita and Thom Browne. Other successful brands are Jacques Durand, Veronika Wildgruber and Alyson Magee.
All of them belong to JDO, whose name stands for Jacques Durand Occhiali, a French company founded by this top eyewear designer and specialist who also worked with personalities such as Philippe Starck and Alain Mikli. In 2012 we bought JDO and moved production to Italy.

Do people buy according to their favorite brand, style, or impulse?
Their first reaction is to buy by impulse, though afterwards they also have to consider how the glasses look on their face.

Where do you order from? How do you inform yourself about trends?
We always travel to specialized optical trade shows in Milan, Paris, Munich, Tokyo, Hong Kong and New York and often brands look for us and ask us for advice.

How do you choose brands to offer to your usual customers?
We choose brands according to the project behind them. It can be their choice of special eco-friendly materials or a very special way the frame is made, for instance, all-handmade or with a special material mix. In addition, we choose a brand to the entire quality behind it, also for the unique project it is characterized by. We often like to discover and launch new upcoming designers or brands.

How important is the communication with regular customers? How do you communicate with them?
We don't use special means for informing our customers. We mostly inform through our store and our shop window. The only difficult part is recalling them inside the store, but once they get to know us we recall them with trunk shows and small events. We create small events, such as a trunk show, for instance, 50-60 aficionados who buy Theo, a special top end glass brand.

Inside of Punto Ottico/Human Eyes
Inside of Punto Ottico/Human Eyes
Did you add any new labels to your assortment recently?
Among some new entries we will offer soon there is Nuiit, a newborn and highly technical, though fashion-minded, made in Italy brand. They carry photo-chromatic lenses, which are available in four different lens hues but can also be used for prescription lenses. Also new will be Vava, a brand designed by a Portuguese designer who lives in Berlin and has worked for various designer fashion brands such as Boss, but also for Zara and Seventy. This line employs ecological acetate so that it perfectly meets all the characteristics of the brands we offers that have to be ethic, esthetic and design-driven.

What major trends do you expect for future seasons?
There will be a strong return of metal frames, especially thin ones - especially golden ones (in true or gold-like variants, which we are already offering). The market is looking for a change since there has been too much acetate. There will also be a strong return to 1990s inspiration.

What do you like about your customers?
What we like most is that they don't fear to look different from the average people. Our customers can be most diverse people – from the very rich Russian tycoon to the super serious lawyer, but also the total freak. Though they have something in common: they all look for a different touch, something highly researched and peculiarly something that makes them stand out from the crowd. For this we can also make made-to-measure eyewear for our customers.

Punto Ottico/Human Eyes store front
Punto Ottico/Human Eyes store front
How does your store differ from other stores?
It is part of our work educating people who don't know much about these types of brands or special manufacturing techniques and our passion for details. Usually eyewear stores work with about 30 brands. We work with 12 only and either upcoming new ones with an interesting story to tell – or very prestigious ones such as, for instance, Oliver Goldsmith, an important US eyewear manufacturer founded in 1926 who made history in eyewear. For instance, they did the glasses worn by Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany”, but also Jackie O' sunglasses and the butterfly shaped glasses that Grace Kelly wore, which were also worn by Nicole Kidman playing Grace in the recent movie dedicated to the Princess of Monaco. We also sell authentic vintage glasses from 1910s to 1970s which we buy from another key player in eyewear, the Los Angeles store Retrospecs. They provide us period made in the US vintage Ray-Bans from 1937 to 1970, models by American Optical and Tart Optical, the eyewear brand that Johnny Depp buys for himself spontaneously.

What about the prices of the glasses you sell in your store?
If we speak about glasses with prescription lenses we can offer a complete pair from 200-300€ to 2000-3000€ but even 5,000€ if you think of frames by Chrome Hearts with diamonds.

Punto Ottico/Human Eyes
Piazza F. Meda 3
20121 Milano
tel. 0039 02 781999