CuparNow KnowHow – Occhiali Bespoke Eyewear Boutique
The latest in our KnowHow series – showcasing the skills of businesses across Cupar – catches up with Erin McNee of Occhiali Bespoke Eyewear Boutique which has just opened on Bonnygate …
Erin is co-owner, dispensing optician and eyewear stylist at Occhiali Bespoke Eyewear Boutique which opened its doors in mid January (2022). Erin says: “My partner, Scott, and I own the business. He runs the Cutting Edge Hair Salon (that his parents own) on the opposite side of the street – and he has many years experience running the business alongside them.”
Erin has worked in the Optics industry for 12 years. She became “fed up” by the lack of choice when it comes to glasses, saying: “All of them look the same!” She adds: “The frames we stock are exclusive ranges from niche eyewear designers around the world.”
Occhiali do not carry out eye-tests. As Erin says: “There are some great opticians and optometrists in and around Cupar, so all we need is for customer to bring in a copy of their most recent in-date prescription – and we can do the rest.” As a Dispensing Optician, Erin can recommend suitable lenses and frames for any prescription: the lenses are then sent to the Zeiss’ lens lab in Birmingham to be glazed with the given prescription lenses.
Erin got into the optics industry and as trainee optical assistant. “I soon fell in love with all things optics such as prescription analysis, the technology of the lenses, fitting frames and taking the appropriate measurements. I expressed my interest in studying to become a Dispensing Optician which is a Diploma undertaken over 3 years of distance learning.”
Mostly, Erin fell in love with glasses themselves: “I soon became obsessed with building up an eyewear wardrobe with many different styles and colours – to change up my look with my glasses.” She attended optical trade shows in London and Paris where she saw some “amazing eyewear“. “They seemed completely ‘out there’ and nothing like the boring and plain glasses we tend to see in the UK.” She worked for a couple of high street opticians – Boots and Vision Express – as well as a couple of family-run, independent practices.
“The lack of choice with the frames got to me! They all looked the same with so little difference in designs and colour options. I also learned that frames from some of the world’s biggest designer brands are made cheaply and mass produced. The niche eyewear designers hand-make their frames using the best materials. It means the quality is far superior – and you are getting glasses that look unique.”
Erin started planning her own eyewear boutique – “somewhere I could offer amazing glasses like those I’d seen at the trade shows to people close to home.” She explains: “People across the UK have been quite reserved with eyewear – usually opting for something that doesn’t stand out too much. I think this is partly due to them only being offered standard designs.”
She says that it is changing: “Over recent years, glasses have become a key fashion accessory. It is now seen as something ‘cool’ instead of nerdy!” She says it is even the case that people are choosing to wear glasses – even if they don’t need them … all to help accessorize their style. And it is the style – the look and fashion – of eyewear that is essential to Occhiali: “I want to be able to offer glasses that will not only look and feel good but that will be unique as you won’t find the designers at regular opticians.” She adds: “It is all about choice – choice of materials, shapes and colours. That choice sets us apart – working with niche brands from Italy, Spain, Belgium, France and Poland. You won’t find mainstream designers here and you may not even recognise the names of them. We think that’s a great thing!”
One of the ranges they stock is completely exclusive to Occhiali. No one else in the UK has them in store. Another is only stocked in one other place in Scotland. The rest? Erin says: “You may find them in the UK, but only in the bigger cities. Certainly not anywhere close by.”
Styling Consultations …
Occhiali offer bespoke eyewear styling consultations. Erin and Jean have accreditation for Eyewear Styling – learning how to help select eyewear that will suit people’s clothing style, personality, colouring, face shape and features. “I am confident that you won’t find this service anywhere else – and we are very proud to have invested our time into something that is so important to our customers.”
Each consultation takes around 90 minutes. Erin says: “We start by getting the customer to fill out a “Style Personality Questionnaire”. This helps us to identify which ‘Style Personality’ is dominant – or they may ‘flow’ between a couple. They may have a certain style for work and a different for social. We then examine their colouring – hair colour, skin tone and eye colour – to help us select colours of eyewear that will enhance each of these – harmoniously.” Erin adds: “We then look at the customer’s face – the features and scale to choose the shapes and sizes of eyewear that will work well to accentuate the features they’d like to enhance with their eyewear.”
The service ensures they find the right eyewear to suit the customer, not only enhancing their look but also making sure they look and feel fabulous. Erin says: “It’s a lot of fun for them as well as us and makes the task of choosing new glasses enjoyable.”
Erin employs her mum, Jean, as an Eyewear Stylist and hopes to give her training on dispensing glasses. She says: “Scott’s day off from Cutting Edge is a Thursday – so you may find him in helping out in here then!” Scott grew up in Cupar: Erin jokes: “He knows just about everyone … or it certainly feels like it!” She adds: “He loves chatting to everyone about the unique eyewear and helping them choose styles to suit. He has a new-found passion for eyewear – helping to set up the business and meeting eyewear reps to choose our brands. Scott is very knowledgeable when it comes to providing information on the materials used, the design processes and the designers themselves.”
We asked Erin what she sees as her greatest achievements: “Qualifying as a Dispensing Optician has allowed me to do what I’m doing now with confidence, knowing I can advise on suitable lenses and frames for prescriptions that will give the customer the best vision, while also being able to offer them unique and stylish frames.” She adds: “It’s a great achievement to open my own dispense-only optical practice too. It is something I’ve wanted to do for a number of years but never thought I’d be in a position to actually make it happen.”
And finally …
We ask all featuring on our Blog what they’d recommend to someone visiting Cupar for the first time – or for the first time in a long time: “I think Cupar is a fantastic place made up of so many fabulous little independent businesses offering unique items. These businesses definitely need to be used so we don’t lose them! I’d say to anyone visiting Cupar for the first time to make a day of it. Give yourself enough time to explore these lovely shops and use it as an opportunity to find unique gifts for birthday or Christmas presents … or just to treat yourself or someone you love! You’ll find one-off gifts in the shops here. Have a break from shopping and stop for lunch at one of the many great restaurants. I’d recommend Milly’s Kitchen to sit in for coffee and cake as the interiors are fab and the girls there are a joy. If you have kids, there’s plenty of activities for the family too. You could take them to the Scottish Deer Centre just outside of Cupar – which is great fun for the kids to see and feed the deer. Cairnie Fruit Farm’s Mega Maze and children’s activities are available at certain times of year – another great day out. There’s also Muddy Boots a few miles outside of Cupar which is a family-run adventure play centre that’s great fun for the whole family too, and has a great farm shop and cafe. You’re certainly not stuck for choice of things to do when visiting Cupar.”
Most importantly? Erin says: “I’d also advise that you bring your prescription with you and come in to see us for a fun-filled styling consultation where you’re sure to leave with amazing specs you absolutely love!”
Thanks for reading!