Best Sellers: Jordan Silver of Silver Lining Opticians on Beating The Big Guys at the Eyewear Game
Every week we turn to the top retailers in men's fashion—from the owners of small independent stores to buyers at multinational chains—to find out what items have been selling like hotcakes and how they stock their shelves. Today, we chat with Jordan Silver, the cofounder of Silver Lining Opticians, perhaps the best source of stylish, high-end vintage eyewear in New York City (and the best place to pick up a pair of sunnies we've ever seen), and find out how he competes (and succeeds) against the major producers, Sunglass Hut, and the guy selling fake Ray-Bans on the street for a fiver.
What are your recent best sellers?
Right now it's our in-house brand with acetate frames and really great hardware and hinges. The aesthetic thus far is really basic and time-tested—the "elements" of what eyewear should be. In fact, each piece is named after an element on the periodic table. Our recent successes have been the Sodium and the Aluminum and the all-time fan favorite, the Hydrogen.
Shades are something you grab on the street for five bucks or pick up at Sunglass Hut for $70. How have you been able to carve out a retail niche for vintage frames that can cost more than 10 times that?
Through consistent quality of product and our knowledge of late-20th-century vintage eyewear. Our celebrity and collector clients are looking for super-rare pieces, something that's truly luxurious, not because it's stamped with a brand name. Also, many other stores have everything behind lock and key, forcing customers to try on what a sales associate thinks they should. Erik Sacher, my business partner, and I have created an open environment to allow customers to browse for themselves and then ask for advice. Every day we help people decide to buy our eyewear through education and honest opinion giving.
You also have a strong celebrity following. How did you cultivate that?
Celebrity clients are really exciting, and it's honestly hard work. But they come to us for the breadth of our collection, our professionalism, and our discretion. They're also educated and savvy, understanding that wearing a custom Tom Ford suit isn't the same as wearing a pair of Tom Ford sunglasses from Sunglass Hut. No offense to Sunglass Hut, but these people wear clothing that people aspire to own, so why not also wear shades people will aspire to own?
How do you compete with the major eyewear-makers, particularly when they keep creating new vintage-inspired lines?
I can't say it isn't difficult. But what we offer is authenticity in our own designs, authenticity in the contemporary lines we carry, and authenticity in unused vintage. One way we keep ahead is by being nimble and taking risks. We often buy styles that aren't currently "in style," but we believe in it, share it with like-minded people, and soon enough we see them selling. I'm not saying we set the trend, but I think we're part of a small group that does.
What's your latest discovery?
For a long time we shied away from carrying sunglasses from the contemporary brands, since we have so much vintage. But this summer we took on two brands—Barton Perreira and Garrett Leight California Optical. Both have been very successful at Silver Lining and added a new category for us.
What's the last in-store item you took home for yourself?
A locking leather cabinet to hold 150 frames for my wife and me. I'm also debating whether or not I should take home a pair of black Persols from the early 1980s—the ones Jack Nicholson made so famous. They're so rare.
What's the most a customer ever dropped on a single purchase at the store?
We value our clients' privacy—but let's just say we see Centurion Cards on a weekly basis.
Visit Silver Lining Opticians at 92 Thompson Street, New York City, or at www.silverliningopticians.com.
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