In a world flooded with sunglasses, it can be hard to see the light on which brand you should be wearing.
From convenient stores to department stores, there are eyewear displays available to us at every turn of the day. So, with that many choices, we usually find ourselves asking, “Which sunglasses do I invest in?” There ends up being a not-so-fine line walked when answering that question because folks eventually elect to either buy a pair of disposable, low-cost sunglasses (“I lose them too often to buy a nice pair”) or higher-priced, big-name brand sunglasses (“I need sunglasses more reliable than these gas station shades.”). There's just never really been a good in between.
Boston General Store recently started carrying wares from Tabulae Eyewear, a maker based out of Brooklyn, New York whom we met at a trade show earlier this year. They're looking to throw some shade at the eyewear market and change the way it operates by offering high-quality sunglasses that are well-designed and stylish, but more affordable than other (larger) brand offerings.
We spent time chatting with Troy, one of the owners, and founder, of Tabulae Eyewear to find out exactly what makes Tabulae sunglasses the better choice in this crowded market:
So, how did you get started as an independent maker in an industry that seems to be monopolized by big manufacturers?
Troy: Well, actually, my career in eyewear began in the corporate sector when I became an optician for a large optical chain store. I worked closely with optometrists, who wrote the prescriptions, to design the best frames for their patients. The problem was that corporate retailers tend to be more concerned with revenue and less about customer needs, and that just didn't fit with my concept of customer service. I ultimately left that company as a result, and once that happened I knew it was time for me to start my own brand.
Did working for big-eyewear help you get started by giving you a foot in the door with suppliers, etc...?
Troy: I gained a lot of knowledge about eyewear, sunglasses in particular, during my time in corporate, but that's about it. I had zero in-roads when I left my job, so I definitely had to start from scratch. I spent a lot of time visiting trade shows and fashion shows to network and meet the people I needed in order to get Tabulae off the ground.
It looks like all that networking worked out.
Troy: Yes, I was able to meet other independent makers and people in the fashion trade, which helped a lot. But most importantly, I met the people who would be manufacturing the lenses and frames I'd be fitting people with. So, in January of 2015, after lots of planning and networking, I officially opened Tabulae with my business partner. As of today we have about four staff members who all primarily handle sales. We also built a lab in Brooklyn, which is where I hand cut and assemble all of the frames and lenses myself.
You cut and assemble everything on your own?
Troy: Yeah that's part of why I started Tabulae. I have my own unique way of hand cutting and customizing frames and lenses so that they fit the contours of the face much better. So basically every pair of Tabulae sunglasses goes through my hands at some point.
There's something to be said about hand-crafted products, especially in your industry because most brands available seem to be mass produced. But what else makes Tabulae the better choice?
Troy: Well one thing everyone should know about lenses for sunglasses is that most companies only polarize their lenses on the front. Polarized lenses are basically lenses that have a film of anti-glare material that helps you see a clearer image in the sun but also protects from UV light. All Tabulae sunglasses have two coatings of anti-glare material, which means the lenses are polarized at every angle (front, back, side). They also provide 100% protection from UVA and UVB light, so they are a definitely a higher quality pair of sunglasses than most of what you see around.
So, what's next for Tabulae?
Troy: Right now, we're just working on fulfilling orders from the people we've met at trade shows, like Boston General Store, which is great. We do a pop-up every weekend at a market in Brooklyn called Artist & Fleas, but we have plans to open our own brick-and-mortar store, hopefully by next year. That will allow us to have more face-to-face interactions with our customer base, which is important for us.
We're also adding four new frame designs to our collection in the coming months which were completely designed in house, so it will be really exciting to release those.
Sunglasses are something we've always wanted to offer at BGS, but efforts to find the right maker always fell short. When we first met Troy back in February there was a lot of excitement because his story really drew us in, but we ended up just really loving Tabulae's product.
The frames in his collection offer an updated design to the classic vintage models of sunglasses you've worn for so long. They are made with a wood-style finish, giving them a unique look that we haven't seen from other makers in our search.
When you first hold a pair of Tabulae sunglasses, it's also clear how well they're made. There's a noticeable weight to the frame that you don't get from most other pairs, but the glasses still feel light on your face. This is because Tabulae crafts all of their eyewear with a durable plant-based material that gives it both sturdy and lightweight qualities.
The lenses, which are crafted in two labs in New York City before arriving to Tabulae's lab, are equally impressive, and you'll discover that the moment you try on a pair of their sunglasses. The image is clear and reduces contrast sensitivity so well in situations of bright light or glare (like being at the beach - or for the approaching winter, on the ski slopes) that we had a hard time taking them off when we were trying them out. The lenses are treated for UVA and UVB protection, making them an extremely utilitarian pair of shades and not just a fashion accessory. However, there are multiple variations of color schemes and styles to choose from, between lenses and frames, allowing people to stand out with their choice of eyewear.
Every pair of Tabulae's sunglasses also includes a triangular hard case with a really clever design that allows the case to lie flat when note in use - it takes up less space in your bag and can even fit in your pocket!
By purveying Tabulae's line, BGS is now one of those many, many places to buy sunglasses. But we're not overwhelming with choices, so we're feeling positive about joining our fellow retailers. We're offering sunglasses from a single maker that we've gotten to know well and whose eyewear provides folks with truly high-quality eye protection and a polished look.
Troy has been so excited for Tabulae to be in our shops that he gave us an extra pair of sunglasses to giveaway to one of our followers, so pay attention to our social media this week to find out how you can enter for a chance to win them.
*Hint: if you don't subscribe to our Instagram account, you should totally go do that now.*
Come down to the shops to see Tabulae's collection of eyewear and try them on. If you or someone you know is in need of a new pair of sunglasses, this is definitely the brand to go with.
Happy End of Summer,
- The Boston General Store Team
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Here at Boston General Store, we love spending time outdoors this time of year. The New England landscapes have so much to offer when it comes to outdoor activities, especially camping and hiking, and we like to take full advantage of that.
Today, some folks are opting for an upgraded kind of camping experience, called glamping, and while we understand lengthy stays out in the wild aren't everyone’s style, we definitely prefer to keep our excursions a little more unpolished. But, that also doesn’t mean we like heading into the woods empty handed.
We take what we need to get by and leave all the rest at home.
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