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Glasses are important. If you need them, you need them and you are wearing them everyday right there on your face. For glasses wearers, the search for the perfect frame is vital and has something of the hunt for the holy grail – to find the shape and size to suit your face; significant, but not overwhelming; stylish but comfortable.
Life is too short to wear ugly glasses afterall, so it is certainly worth putting in the effort of the hunt! Support in the ocular style stakes is always welcome by seekers of the perfect frames, but it’s unlikely you’re ever going to find that for real in your high street opticians. A visit to Manchester’s Seen however is a totally different experience.
Seen was established in 2005, by founder Tareq Moustafa, bringing a focus on customer service back from time spent as an optometrist in Australia. Seen is built on combining thorough, accurate eye examinations with an eyewear selection curated from the finest independent glasses designers across the world. You won’t find your typical collections licensed from the big fashion names at Seen. Their range is drawn from glasses specialists – these are serious frames for those demanding style and vision from their spectacles.
The Seen store is small and hiply-urbane, complimented by the bespoke feel of its location nestled at the end of St Ann’s Arcade, and the surrounding stores here and across the alleyway in Barton Arcade.
Stepping in, the feel is relaxed and inspiring; the polar opposite of the clinical feel of mainstream opticians. I was offered a drink and chocolates and was totally at ease. The eye test itself takes place in the basement of the store, down an unpolished narrow staircase. The examination feels more easy-going than your usual eye test, with Tareq’s erudite manner giving you full confidence in the thorough nature of the checks.
The great thing about the Seen experience for me was the friendly support in choosing a frame. It is a tricky decision to take when put on the spot! But everyone in here looks great in their glasses and that gives you confidence that they know what they are talking about. I felt I could really trust the feedback as I tried on selection after selection, never feeling rushed or coerced in a direction that I was not comfortable with.
It went like this – The stylist listened to my ideas on what I would like from my glasses, and then left me to browse and select some frames I liked. At the same time, she disappeared to gather some suggestions of her own based on my own style and what I had said I liked.
Trying on the different styles, you obviously decide what you like, but the stylist also gives you a genuine second opinion. You can tell the staff really care that you end up with glasses that look great, but that also suit your personality so you will feel comfortable wearing them; whether you are a traditionalist looking for amazing quality and style, or you are aiming for a unique statement fashion frame.
It’s a collaboration if you like; the flexible options continuing to emerge in response to your reactions from displays and hidden drawers that cover every taste. It’s a living collection; an innovative eyewear treasure trove.
I loved choices by some of the interesting European eyewear designers. Belgian individualist brand, Theo Eyewear by opticians Wim Somers and Patrick Hoet, collaborating with designers to develop groundbreaking and avant garde styles in aluminium. Modern retro French brand Anne & Valentin using colour, shape and high quality production. Hungarian based Vinylize making glasses from recycled vinyl records with an infinite number of groove patterns.
My final frame selection was by Anne & Valentin – a gorgeously shaped retro frame in a traditional colour but with electro-blue arms. Returning a week or so later to collect my new glasses equipped with their lenses, the experience is completed with a fitting to make sure the glasses sit just right. And they do. And I can’t tell you how many compliments I’ve had on them since! I will certainly be back to Seen for my next pair.