Innovation That Matters

Buy-one-give-one indie eyewear sells for $95 delivered


The market for prescription eyewear has traditionally been dominated by high prices, little innovation and a few large competitors. That’s why we’ve seen online discounters emerge, and it’s also why a young new startup has set its sights on the industry—so to speak—with a paradigm-busting model that aims to combine independent design, “buy one, give one” generosity and some long-overdue pricing transparency. Whereas prescription glasses from most high-end optical shops tend to be USD 300 and up, Philadelphia-based Warby Parker offers its own, in-house designs through the mail for USD 95 including delivery. Eliminating the licensing fees charged by designer brands and manufacturing houses is how Warby Parker cuts out much of that cost differential; instead, it creates its own boutique-quality designs. Its first, vintage-inspired collection includes 27 limited-run glasses styles plus—intriguingly—one monocle. Then, too, there are the anti-scratch and anti-reflective coatings, for which most optical shops charge extra; at Warby Parker, those features come standard—as does UV protection. Rather than maintain a physical store, meanwhile, Warby Parker gives consumers two ways to try its frames on: with its virtual try-on feature using an uploaded photo, or via its free, 7-day home trial of up to five styles at a time. All shipping, try-ons and even returns are free. Perhaps best of all, however, is that for each pair of glasses it sells, Warby Parker donates to nonprofit Restoring Vision, which then donates a pair of glasses to someone in need. Currently, Warby Parker sells only single vision lenses. It also serves only the United States. Time to strike a little independent-minded transparency terror into the high-end optical shops in *your* part of the world…? (Related: Reading glasses for baby boomersBuy a tie, give a child a school uniform.) Spotted by: Alejandro Chouza



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