Those of us whose vision isn’t quite 20/20 have had plenty of reasons to rejoice in recent years, given the disruption of the optical market by young eyewear brands who have adopted alternative business models, elevating quality while pushing down prices.
Yet despite the advancements, the middle ground between quality and value remains somewhat elusive. In our search for the ideal balance, one company in particular has caught our eye: Archibald London. Founded by 26-year-old Columbia graduate, Rohan Dhir, Archibald promises finely-tuned eyewear that is designed in London and hand-crafted by master artisans in Japan at an affordable price point. Eager to find out more, we took a closer look to discover what Archibald is all about.
“We are not far from a moment when consumers start questioning spending patterns and demand far more from luxury brands.” If we are what we purchase, what do we want the brands we choose to spend our money on to say about us? As consumers today, we’ve been primed to believe that the trade-off for quality is value, and the trade-off for value is quality. We’ve become complacent with compromise. But we shouldn’t have to be. This is the belief of Archibald London, a new platform for high-quality, accessible products that’s elevating our expectations, and helping us realize that we can expect more – that investing in high quality can come at a price point that won’t put us out of pocket.
“We are not far from a moment when consumers start questioning spending patterns and demand far more from luxury brands,” believes Dhir.”Traditional luxury is built on two tenets;” he continues. “An excellent product and a way of limiting access to it – usually through price and availability.” It is precisely this view against which the Archibald philosophy rallies. Dhir’s approach to disrupting the existing luxury market centers on offering of beautiful, hand-crafted products created by artisans who are at the top of their game, allowing Archibald to offer its products free of the price mark-ups we’ve come to expect from traditional luxury retailers. Glasses that would otherwise cost €900 are made available for €245. To put this ethos into action, the company embraces a long-standing idea that still isn’t automatically associated with luxury: a fair and direct sales model. Bypassing the middlemen, Archibald scours the globe for production partners who may have been left behind by traditional luxury brands in the race to the bottom for manufacturing costs.
By building direct and sustainable relationships with the artisans they seek out, Archibald is able to offer consumers products that are as beautiful as they are affordable. The decision to adopt this sales model came about as Dhir and his team of eight pursued their vision for Archibald’s first product range: bespoke glasses made by a guild of Japanese optical craftsmen from locally-sourced acetate and titanium, with ultra-thin 1.67 Hi-Index MR lenses. The result of their production process – which involves over 200 steps – takes the form of frames that are timeless in style, and have been created to be worn for years instead of lasting a season before being replaced. In this way, Archibald distinguishes itself from other optical companies whose claims to market disruption are premised on pushing glasses as a fast fashion accessory.
Designed in London, Archibald’s range of frames “incorporates updated influences from post-war British designs, and draw influences from what we refer to as a ‘a golden period for British design’ – a time when youth culture attempted to free itself of the shackles of the outdated values,” says Dhir. Wanting to offer a greater range of frames tailored to women – such as ‘Isabel’ or ‘Elenore’, Archibald drew inspiration from the great women of post-war Britain to inspire their shape and form. Each frame is individually glazed with tailored lenses to fulfil the requisite prescription.
“I always say that a truly outstanding product is something that can make you feel an inch taller, slightly better, a little more confident.”So, when faced with selection of classic frames, how should we go about picking the perfect pair? Naturally, there’s no algorithmic secret. Given the highly functional nature of glasses, and their importance in their wearer’s life, fit and comfort are top priority. We asked Dhir to impart some further guiding wisdom. His mantra? “I always say that a truly outstanding product is something that can make you feel an inch taller, slightly better, a little more confident. But it won’t change your life, it won’t change the way you view yourself and if you aren’t enough without it, you certainly won’t be enough with it.”
Wise words to follow indeed, and ones that make us excited to keep an close eye on what’s next for Archibald. With plans to move into new categories next year and broaden the platform, this is just the beginning of the brand’s journey. For now, if you’re in Berlin, it’s not too late to swing by Archibald’s pop up store at Brunnenstr. 195, 10119 Berlin, and try on a few new pairs for yourself. Word has it they’ll be open late this coming Saturday, May 14th – which is also their last day open in the city. Maybe we’ll see you there.