When Melrose Place boutique RetroSpecs started selling customized vintage eyewear 14 years ago, the owners had to roam the country in an RV, seeking out old frames at antique shops. These days, they let the product come to them.
“We’re always asked when we’re going to run out of frames,” says co-owner Marya Francis. “But people send us new ones all the time.”
Part boutique, part optometrical museum, RetroSpecs’ holdings date back as far as 1740. But its most viable frames come from the 1920s-40s, when manufacturers like Ray Ban and Bausch & Lomb began to mass produce gold-wire specs.
Prospective buyers select a set of frames (from $495 to $1,400) from the shop’s extensive, meticulously organized collection, and the staff installs lenses and customizes the glasses to the buyer’s facial contours.
“These date from the Art Nouveau period,” says Francis, pointing to a silver pair of American Optical Co. frames, “and you can see that artistic climate reflected in the design.”
Fusing classic design with modern touches like rose-colored lenses, RetroSpecs balance the old with the new. More than just fashionable accessories, these glasses are functional antiques — objets d’art that turn up at movie premieres, press junkets and window shopping on Rodeo Drive.