I am not typically brand loyal and I hardly ever pay attention to designer labels. I watch fashion shows as the colors and silhouettes are usually good indicators of what will be trending in the optical industry, but I never watch for a specific designer. This search for aesthetics over designer labels is a practice I use in my own personal clothing shopping, and led me to an unintentional purchase that has influenced my designs.
I am addicted to a plain T-shirt that costs $130.
I don’t have the most exciting closet. It consists mostly of shades of white, gray, blue, and especially black. Since my daughters are old enough to start eyeing my closet, they often ask why I own clothes that are so plain and black. “Black clothing makes my life easier,” I
reply. When I’m on the go, I don’t have time to be thinking about which colors will match, so I simply go with one that can withstand the test of time and occasions.
I don’t have a favorite designer. When I shop, I look at the quality of the material, the cut, and whether the style is one that suits my own. I hardly have any time to shop, so when I do, I go straight for a few stores that are known for quality, and search for pieces that are similar to the tried and true styles that I previously owned. I never have been one to go for any particular label or designer. Until I found these T-shirts.
I discovered these incredible T-shirts by pure coincidence, as I never intentionally seek them out. One day I was in a rush to find some plain T-shirts, and Neiman Marcus was the closest store near me. I ran in, asked the sales lady where I could find some plain shirts, and she pointed to a rack in the corner. I quickly grabbed three: a black, gray, and navy blue, and darted to the cashier. When she told me the amount I had to pay, I was shocked. I instantly regretted not looking at the price tags, but I didn’t have time to shop elsewhere, so I dutifully but painfully paid.
What made those T-shirts different from inexpensive alternatives was not immediately apparent to me. Yes, the cut was great; they felt as if they were tailored specifically for me, but I am no stranger to clothing with a proper fit, so I still thought I made a mistake for not being a more careful shopper. But years went by and I finally took notice. I became aware of the fact that those three T-shirts are the ones I always reach for. I also noticed that after years of countless washing, they have not faded and have not lost their shape. They feel as comfortable as when I first bought them. I also finally understand what “feels like your second skin” means. Not because they are skin-tight, but it means they are so utterly comfortable that I always feel at ease while I’m wearing them.
I will probably wear tees by Neiman Marcus’ Luxury Essentials until the day I die or they stop the collection, whichever comes first. I came to accept the fact that paying such an exuberant amount for a plain T-shirt is my guilty pleasure. I wear them all the time, and they work well with either dress up or down: with jeans, with long skirts, layered under a blazer, and especially when I fly as they are thick enough to keep me warm while on the plane.
Four years after I bought those tees, I went back to NM and got a couple more black ones. I brought them home, put them side by side with the old one, and found no difference whatsoever between them. They are exactly the same shade of black and look and feel identical.
This is an era when fast and cheap fashion such as H&M and Zara are all the rage. But I refuse to shop from them because their clothing cannot withstand the test of time so one ends up creating more wastes in the landfills. I will always prefer paying more for quality and styles that actually last as I believe it’s actually better value in the long run and better for our environment.
No fashion runway shows have inspired me as much as these plain black T-shirts. It shall always be my goal to create versatile, understated, and timeless elegant eyewear with quality that lasts.
Back in June of 2009, when I first started TC CHARTON and founded Prologue Vision, I had a vision for the future.
I’d work really hard for three years, introduce the line to the industry and to my fellow Asian Americans and show them the amazing benefit of wearing eyewear that really fits. Eventually, people will start to demand better fitting products and other companies will start paying more attention to the needs of consumers with Asian features. Once the bigger companies start to have their own versions of Asian fit eyewear, it will be time for me to squeeze out of the game.
Back then, I truly believed TC CHARTON would not be able to withstand the fierce competition of the power houses that own all the big international licensed brands. Time and time again people insisted that Asian people ONLY want to wear Big Brands and Big Logos.
It was discouraging at times, but I remember telling them and myself:
“I am Asian, and I never care about the big logos. I cannot be the only one. There’s gotta be other like-minded Asians out there. I care about good fitting, great quality products above all things, whether they are shoes, or clothes or glasses.”
Just as I predicted, other eyewear companies, big or small, started to follow suit. Many of them have introduced styles with higher nose pads, and they all claimed to have Asian fit.
When I first heard about this, I panicked. But only briefly. I quickly learned that, NO other collection offers what we offer: a complete collection with over 150 styles—-for women, men, teens, kids, and babies. Time and time again I hear opticians and optometrists telling me that no other products fit their Asian patients as well as ours.
Show after show, meeting after meeting, we are greeted with encouragement and positive feedback.
And now, 10 shows and 6 years later, we are still around.
So, as we wrapped up the presentation of our new Fall/Winter 2015 collection at Vision Expo West, we were elated with the turnout. Our model, Tim, who flew in from Los Angeles, was a huge hit at both the booth and our cocktail party in our suite at the Venetian Hotel. We got to hang out with some of our existing accounts, and meet new ones that want our products in their stores. And most importantly, people LOVED the new styles.
People often ask me: “Why do your products fit so much better? What’s your secret?”
There’s no secret. I am Asian, and I study Asian faces. This is all I do, and I intend to do it the best of my ability. This is not an afterthought. This collection represents everything I believe in – to be the change I want to see. I am always listening to what consumers and opticians have to say. That’s why I love meeting consumers at the trunk shows, and I love talking to the opticians and asking for their feedback.
I attend the Vision Expos each year, not merely to use it as a platform to showcase our newest styles, but to get the opportunity to make a personal connection with eye care professionals. I take their opinions to heart and then I turn around and work harder to meet their needs.
Until next show.
I used to think something was wrong with my face.
When I was a child, my glasses would always slide down my nose. No matter what I did I could not find frames that fit me properly, and it made me think that the problem was with my face. It was an awful feeling. When I first started TC CHARTON, I was determined to do whatever I could to prevent other children from having those same feelings.
I recently had a very long conversation with Mark Shupnick, an optician with over 40 years of experience in his field. He is going to be giving a lecture about the importance of children’s eye care at the upcoming Vision Expo West in Las Vegas, and had a lot of interesting things to say on the topic. As a mother of three, this is something that I have always been concerned about.
We are noticing that more and more children, especially among the Asian population, become far-sighted. Most eye care professionals blame prolonged use of electronic devices and the lack of outdoor activities.
When children can’t see well, they simply cannot read and learn accordingly. Moreover, a child that wears a pair of frames that keeps sliding down means their vision is not being properly corrected.
Making sure that children take annual eye exams, wear glasses that stay put, and protect their eyes from harmful UV rays while outdoors are simple ways to correct their vision.
A lot of parents are only vaguely aware of this issue, which is why it is so important for people like Mark to spread awareness. Hopefully the opticians, once informed, will pass on the message, and I want to do my part as well.
As far as I know, TC CHARTON is the only collection that offers an entire line of kids and teen Asian-fit frames. I feel that it is very important to not only give them glasses that fit properly early on, but to also provide them with many styles to express themselves with.
That being said, I am often asked why I don’t offer sunglasses for children. There are a few reasons for this.
Our frames and sunglasses are made with the highest-quality materials we can find, but a lot of parents are worried that their children will break or lose them. I already lowered our kids and teens prices substantially in an effort to encourage parents to give their children the right fit, but while most parents recognize the benefits of our frames, they would still be reluctant to give them sunglasses at a higher price point. To those parents, I often suggest an alternative solution: fitting their TC frames with transition lenses.
Transition lenses change from light to dark in the sunlight, so the child can wear their frames both indoors and outdoors without any problems. This saves the parents from buying two different frames, and means the child doesn’t have to keep track of multiple pairs of glasses. Just doing something this simple can make a big difference.
I grew up dealing with frames that never fit my Asian bridge. It was frustrating and made me feel inadequate. As a mother, I do not wish any child to EVER have to feel this way. As members of the eye care community, people like Mark and I must do everything we can to raise awareness on this topic. Please, if you are a parent, make sure to give your children regular eye exams. Don’t be afraid to spend a little bit more for frames that can actually stay on their bridge, and please fit them with transition lenses. The eyes of your children will thank you for it.