What is luxury? For me, it’s expert craftsmanship, a pleasant shopping experience and having something unique that I know other people will covet. I don’t mind spending money if I’m looked after by staff and helped to find a product that I will not only use but love. And for that reason, I feel like Tom Davies is completely revolutionising luxury eyewear – glasses and sunglasses – for adults and children. The staff couldn’t be more welcoming and the store that I visited on Sloane Square in Chelsea is just as stunning as the products inside.
As someone who had a minus 7 prescription in her teenage years (pretty blind), I’ve been to a fair few opticians. I’ve been to ones in my hometown of Hemel Hempstead, I’ve been to ones in my university city of Bristol and I’ve been to ones in London and I’ve never felt fully satisfied.
Usually, my opticians’ appointments have consisted of a 20-minute eye test where I’ve looked at letters and then looked at circles on a green and red background and been asked to say what was clearer. After that, I’d be thrown out into a room – alone – with rows of spectacles and told to try them on. This would be ok if I could see what I was trying on, but because I was so short-sighted I’d have to press my nose to the mirror to see what I looked like. Ask anyone else for their opinion and they’d say I looked good but they’d say that for all frames I tried on so how could I trust them? I inevitably ended up leaving feeling very confused after parting with more than £200 for a pair of frames that I hoped I’d look ok in but couldn’t quite tell as I couldn’t quite see. Then I’d never feel particularly special wearing them because I always wondered if they were the best I could possibly get or there were another pair that would have been better suited that I’d missed because I was so blind.
I never wanted to go to the opticians as I just felt it was a rip off. I’d have to pay more money to make the lenses look thinner and pay extra for scratch proof lenses which is essential for anyone as clumsy as me.
However, I went to Tom Davies on Sloane Square with an open mind having received rave reviews by several cool people. Their frames are all over our TV and cinema screens – Heston Blumenthal has several pairs as do Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Hearing that Angelina Jolie is a customer strangely put my mind at ease as I can’t imagine her settling for poor service. Ed Sheeran – someone who is famous for wearing glasses – has Tom Davies bespoke spectacles, which Taylor Swift borrowed for her End Game music video. Talk about VIP!
The shop that I visited has a prime location on Sloane Square so it’s really easy to get to and there are plenty of places to treat yourself before or after the appointment. You could stroll down the King’s Road or mooch in the boutiques of Sloane Street and walk up to Harrods for a nibble in the food court.
My youngest daughter Isabella is too young for childcare so she came with me and the staff were very welcoming.I was told to take my time to get her settled, offered a drink (I could even have chosen Champagne) and the staff assured me that they could watch her if I wanted to have my appointment alone so I could focus. I took them up on it and they were fabulous.
The optician’s clinic (pictured above) felt like a medispa. It was hi-tech but relaxing at the same time. I felt really comfortable with the female optometrist, who was super brainy. It was lovely to have a woman in charge who not only knew what she was doing but could explain the gadgets to me in simple terms. It’s when experts can take complicated information and present it in simple ways that you know they’re good at what they do.
The standard test – the letters and the circles – is the last thing that happens. First, x-rays were taken of my eye, measuring different parts and checking the thickness of certain parts.
Next, my peripheral vision was tested by a fun game. I had to use one eye at a time and press a button each time I saw a light. These lights would get further and closer away from my direct eyeline. I was told I did very well (until I lost attention).
Afterwards, I was asked to look left and right and up and down while she checked my pupil size and general eye health. I’d had that done before but this optometrist made it more comfortable as she was pretty speedy.
Finally, it was time for the eye test which was also very quick. The chair was very cool, much better than the usual testing chairs, and the letter board was more square and matte and generally inconspicuous. Although the room was white and clinical it was also very design-led and looked like something you’d find in the pages of an interiors magazine. This made me feel more at ease as I like hanging out in nice places – I’m shallow like that.
The result of the eye test was that I have almost 20:20 vision, which I’m very happy about as I haven’t been to an optician in 10 years. I had laser eye surgery to fix my blindness in 2007 and since then I’ve never felt like I needed to go to the opticians. At the start of the appointment, I was mildly concerned the optician would find a problem I hadn’t been aware of (that would inevitably happen in my youth) but it was all good news.
Therefore I didn’t really need glasses but I didn’t want the experience to end! Once upstairs, I saw my baby was being well looked after by the staff so I had a bit of time to look at regular frames and sunglasses. This was the first time I’ve ever been to an optician and been able to see my reflection in a mirror and I went wild. I literally tried on everything and nobody judged me or looked down on me. I felt like they were happy that I was happy, all as my baby slept in her pram at the back of the shop. Bliss!
Talking about babies, I’ve always prayed that my children would inherit their father’s 20-20 eyesight rather than having the hassle of wearing glasses like me. However, for the first time ever I realised that it wouldn’t be a huge disappointment if they did have to wear glasses as the options these days are a lot better than when I was growing up. Just look at these KIDZ LONDON frames all made with the same attention to detail to the customer’s face as the adult frames. And there are some super cute kids’ sunglasses too.
When I reached the adults’ sunglass collection, I was blown away by the quality of the frames. I have tried on a lot of sunglasses over the years because I travelled a lot for work and every airport trip’s always involved some sunglass shopping. Therefore I thought I knew what suited me – classic aviators and large round ones with a bit of bling around eyes. I just love shiny things! However, I was surprised to find a pair of oval ones suited my face and they didn’t have any shiny embellishment. I’ve never had oval sunglasses before!
I was also surprised by how light the frames felt on my face. This is because natural materials are used to make the frame. Several pairs are made from ethically sourced horn (read more about that here)
‘It’s because Tom designs the glasses with actual female role models in mind,’ an assistant told me. ‘He’s thought about all face shapes so you can guarantee this collection has something to suit everyone.’ This assistant was the one to steer me away from aviators and to try on the oval ones – she had opinions and I was happy to listen to her. I liked what I saw in the mirror.
Job done, or so I thought, but picking the frames is not the final step of the process by a long way. Now is where things get really interesting as customers can follow the manufacturing process of their chosen sunglasses. Earlier, I wrote that luxury to me meant expert craftsmanship and the transparency of the manufacturing process adds an extra level of expertise.
All of my other designer sunglasses have been bought ‘off the peg’ at airports but Tom Davies sunglasses are the couture equivalent. Ok, so they may not have been designed with me in mind, but they are made with me in mind (hence why they are ‘bespoke’). The pair I tried on in the shop was a standard model and then a new pair would be made bespoke for me, with my facial measurements.
The first step was to find out what size the bridge of my nose was. This was done in a clever way with rows of empty frames with different sized nose parts. I tried on several to see what size fitted closest to my face without leaving a gap by my nose.
Then I sat down with my baby and they measured the side of my face. When I eventually picked up the finished glasses, I received this clever technical diagram showing the exact specifications.
Before then I was able to keep track of the manufacturing process as I received email updates from the factory in Brentford, West London, where the glasses were being made. I love it when Britain is used as a manufacturing base!
The emails contained a little video showing where my glasses were on the production line. These videos showed how my glasses were hand-finished and were so interesting I watched them about 5 times.
After approx 4 weeks from my original appointment, I received another email letting me know they were ready and it was time to book my final fitting. I felt like the Tom Davies team really wanted to make sure I was happy with the end result and that made me feel special and valued.
On the final fitting, nothing more had to be done as the measurements had been taken perfectly. I was amazed to be shown a unique extra touch – my name was etched into the side of the frame. Each customers frame is personalised to show that they’ve been consciously made with that customer in mind.
And here’s the end result. What do you think?