In the Pray section of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling chick lit-meets-spiritual travelogue, Eat Pray Love, there is a line about Tulsi: “the cutest little bookworm of an Indian girl you ever saw, even cuter since one lens of her “specs” (as she calls her eyeglasses) broke last week in a cartoonish spiderweb design, which hasn’t stopped her from wearing them.”
“Specs”, if we stick with Tulsi-speak, and believe opticians across the city, have come of age. Best place to verify that is Khan Market, New Delhi’s jewel-in-the-crown piece of real estate. And a great place to spot a trend.
Naveen Kalra, the owner of the biggest big retail eye wear chain in Khan, Dayal Opticians, when asked what’s new in the world of eyewear says, removing his frames, “these”. The focus is on his retro-looking frames made with “the latest German technology.”
My two questions: Would they break if you were to play basketball in them? Indignation in his reply: no, of course not, “they’re German”. Second question, how much do they cost. His reply, delivered straight: “Only 400 Euros.”
PP Singh, is the (very affable) former chairman of the Delhi Opticians Association, and owner of Paul Opticians (in Nehru Place, known more as a computer and electronics market than anything eye wear related). Asking him for “industry figures” is a lost cause. He’s amused: “Ji association toh picchle dus saalon se dead padha hai” — the association has been lying dead for ten years. He’s not enamoured by the idea that there might be trends in eye wear. What’s left are the following nuggets: All cheap good frames are imported from China. The biggest name to reckon with in premium eyewear is Luxottica.
At Sunglass Hut, the best-selling brand is Raybans, with Aviators and Wayfarers taking the lead. Oakleys has a sporty-man appeal: You’ve seen Yuvraj Singh sport the face-clinging frames on the cricket field. The frame is ‘nylon infused plastic’ — which means it has a gymnast-like tendency to contort any way you want. (“Don’t write plastic”, says Neeraj, the store manager of the Sunglass Hut outlet at a mall. “It sounds cheap. Write ‘acetate’”). And those UV-lenses he wears with the colour attributes of petrol? They’re called “iridium-coated lenses”.
Luxury shades are a different kettle of fish. Prada (non-sport) starts at Rs 12,000. “Prada,” I’m told, “is for working class women.” I’m stumped. Working class? He means corporate/ working women. Average Bvlgari buyer: 35-year-olds. The designs favoured: Butterfly (big ones that cover most of your face) and cateyes (pointed up at the edges).