(Image Credit: Facebook)
We chat to Spectacle Emporium’s Janan Choudry about his unique story and passion for glasses. From his biggest style inspirations to why he set up his amazing store, everything you need to know about Spectacle Emporium in this month’s business Q&A.
1) What made you decided to set up your business and why specifically glasses?
I have worked in the optical industry for 20 years – starting as an apprentice to graduating in Optometry, and working for multinationals to the independent shop around the corner. Yet in all that time, I came disillusioned with the direction my industry was taking: one of mass produced – one size fits all and sending customers fast out the door with little care to the execution of sublime service and genuinely high-quality products. It’s rapidly imitating the fast food industry.
I knew nothing of starting-up a business from scratch but it was ultimately the best platform to showcase what I can do for discerning individuals, people who want more than the ubiquitous, more than just tacked-on names on the side of frames, people who sought frames that fitted their face AND personality. A personable service.
2) What is your favourite thing about running a business?
I love the conversations I have with clients. Yes, I can (and will) talk a lot about frames shapes, styles and materials, but I also love listening to peoples’ stories. We share grand tales over hot tea, coffee or one of the fruity cordials that’s locally produced.
Everyone is different. And I’d like to think that by celebrating our differences, we can learn much! In fact, a client recently lent me a copy of “The Optician of Lampedusa”, which was a heartrending account of the tragic migrants shipwrecked off the Italian coast. A lesson that opportunities and liberties that we take for granted are in-fact life-changing for others.
3) What tips would you give people wanting to start their own business but perhaps are unsure?
I can only reflect on what drove me to start up my business: I have a real passion for eyewear, unrivalled in Birmingham and beyond. It’s only from years of experience of repairing glasses, fitting and stylising frames that I can tell what pair of spectacles will fit one person. I also see nuances and slight angles and colours that make a whole lot of difference to someone’s face.
I also love high quality niche eyewear. I would be embarrassed to give someone a cheap pair of glasses knowing full well that the colour will fade, or get out of shape or fall apart within a year! I take pride in my work – that should be reflected in the end-product.
Combine knowhow and self-belief with market research. Take the plunge, there will be peaks, troughs and a whole lot of heartache, but if you have the right foundation and positive attitude, then it’s possible to go far.
4) Why do you believe that choosing the right pair of glasses for you is so important?
This is a GREAT question! Where to begin…?
Yes! First impressions. First impressions count! The undeniable fact is that you spend more time looking at someone’s eyes than anywhere on the face, meaning that you must put serious consideration on getting those frames that look right. An outstanding fit will enhance natural beauty, giving proportion, symmetry and dimension.
If you think people can’t tell if you’re wearing a cheap pair of glasses, you’re wrong. That scratched lick of paint catches the light at the most awkward times, whilst a lop-sided fit reflects a careless attitude to self-grooming (or a bad stylist).
Even wearing the wrong shape and size can make your face look… fat! Deep down, no one wants that, surely? Yet, wearing a beautifully made, well-crafted pair of spectacles that fits and complements your face is a statement that YOU are someone worth taking notice of. A statement that YOU invested in yourself to be the best that you can be. It is the single most important fashion accessory.
We don’t skimp on the quality of lenses either, technology has moved leaps and bounds in recent years and we’ve worked tirelessly to bring the most cutting-edge technology available. You can have the most beautiful frames in the world spoilt by cheap poor performance lenses – it’s a good thing that we don’t charge extra for some premium lenses.
5) We hear rumours about you starting vlogging? Can you give us anymore info on this?
This is an exciting project that I am embarking on. I have already started filming and have released a couple of videos on YouTube. The aim is to publish weekly tapes on our hint, tips and opinionated views on eyewear.
There is a lot of generic stylist videos by vloggers that are sponsored and feels disingenuous. I want to change that. I want to change the way people perceive eyewear and if people cannot find us in our shop, then I will reach out to the global village via the internet. Sponsors not included.
Check us out on Youtube and subscribe!
6) Who is your biggest inspiration in business?
The little indie shops. Definitely. Especially shops that are run on passion for what they do and are willing to share their expertise. I grew up near Brick lane and Spitalfields Market in London and that left a huge mark on me.
7) You have a very large collection of glasses, but can you pick your favourite?
Oh my! Glasses should reflect your mood and so my favourite changes day to day. If I’m feeling flamboyant then I’ll reach for my Aqua/Green glasses by Kirk & Kirk, but I will tone it down (but still have fun) with a pair of industrial chic Soup Can specs by Tavat.
Everyone deserves to have a “Visual Wardrobe” with a great choice of styles for any occasion! Why wear stilettoes to a Yoga class?!
8) How do you help your customers choose a perfect pair of glasses?
The shop is designed to be the exact opposite of main stream high street opticians or anything else that you may expect! Instead of a wall of frames that look almost identical, or the cliched shelves of other boutiques that have hundreds of glasses on display, we purposely have a handful of styles for people to see with hundreds hidden in the drawers.
The journey begins with a warm smile and a conversation on what the client is looking for. With a little bit of information, I can then reach out for a few styles that fit. It’s a process; a conversation that yields satisfying results.
It’s not all formal though, sometimes our clients get utterly excited at the prospect of discovering frames that they had never seen that they love to trawl through the drawers themselves. Like kids in a candy store!!! Not a recommended method but it’s a vindication of our time, money and effort in curating the very best: we love putting a smile on peoples’ faces.
9) Where do you see Spectacle Emporium 2 years from now?
The first 20 months have been explosive! We had no idea that what we were trying to achieve in a suburb of Birmingham would ripple across the international arena! We have been featured on a prestigious European magazine, we have lectured at the UK’s largest optical fair (100% Optical, London) on the importance of differentiating themselves from the high street competition with stocking independent eyewear, we were also finalist in the UK Opticians Awards for Best Fashion Practice. And now we’re shortlisted as best Independent Retailer in Birmingham – for selling glasses!!!
I’d love to invest on more exciting eyewear to complement our current stock. We’re adamant that we will never ever bring “brands” to just sell off the shelf. We’re determined to bring a real glimpse in to the future of indie eyewear.
10) In three words describe the Spectacle Emporium?
Does three words in one hashtag count?
11) In three words describe Kings Heath?
Vibrant indie suburb.
12) What can people expect when they visit the store?
Excellence in stylising, products and knowledge. A keen eye to ensure that you are delighted with your purchase in the most relaxed environment.
13) Who is a celebrity who has a strong glasses game?
Unquestionably will.i.am. He’s wearing so many styles and colours that even I envy him! Great looking glasses can ooze charisma and character. Why be bland when you can stand out?
14) What trends have you seen this season?
Thin rounded metal aviators with clear lenses have seen a revival, whilst vibrant and striking translucent colours are grabbing the headline, and that very 70s yellow tint with a subtle gold flash/mirror tint is just hot!!! The best thing about modern eyewear, however, is seeing the plethora of creative indie designers and manufacturers that are taking risks – it’s a great time for curators, fashionistas and eyewear aficionados.
One trend that I hated seeing this summer from Instagram influencers, however, were tiny sunglasses that barely covered the eyeball. It reminded me more of the traitor from the Matrix (Cypher?). Importantly, that style was defeating the protective purpose of sunglasses – to prevent intense UV rays hitting the eyes and skin.
15) Finally, are you a subtle or statement glasses kind of guy?
I’d be a hypocrite for saying subtle. I just can’t stand living in a world where everyone wore thin black rectangular glasses or tortoiseshell-coloured frames. Especially if it’s stamped with someone else’s name on the outside! Argh! Life’s too short for boring glasses. Dress to impress, I say!!! Make a statement (but you can always go back to that safe pair when you need to haha).
I believe in beautifying Birmingham, one face at a time. You can’t be at the cusp of fashion by playing it safe.
Spectacle Emporium recently been nominated for the ‘Best Indie Retailer in Brum’ award. The business is competing for the award against four other indie businesses around Birmingham. There are many other categories such as restaurant of the year, bar/pub of the year and many more to vote for. Voting closes on the 8th of this month so if you support Spectacle Emporium, Janan and his passion for specs you can vote for him here.