Seeing Eyewear in a New Light: My Visit to the Georges Laoun Store
When I was younger, my parents would often bring me to the Plateau on the weekend. We would walk around, buy an ice cream or hot chocolate depending on the season, and I would take in the colours, the sounds, the people...all so different from my quiet neighbourhood. My favourite part of these outings was window shopping. I loved looking through those tall glass display windows and marvelling at all the beautiful items inside.
One store that stands out in my memory was on the corner of St. Denis and Duluth (not that I paid attention to street names at the time). It had a bright red sign and windows that reached way above my head. Within them lay some of the most interesting glasses I’d ever seen. Sometimes they rested on cubic pedestals, other times on the heads of brightly coloured mannequins. They came in every shape and colour you could imagine and I admired them like I would a painting. They looked like something a movie star would wear. Every time we walked around the area, I would stop in front of that window to see what new creations were on display. I was captivated.
Fast forward about 10 years, and I’m a business student volunteering at the Concordia Marketing Aid Clinic, a university association providing free marketing support to local small businesses. Georges Laoun Opticien is one of our clients this year and Laura Laoun has invited us to visit their second location on Sherbrooke street in downtown Montreal. I had known about the business for years but this would be my first time actually entering one of their stores and seeing their selection up close. When I walked in, I was met with cases and cases of artsy glasses frames; it was truly an eyewear lover’s dream.
Our team was already familiar with Georges Laoun’s business model of showcasing glasses designed by independent artists—it’s what drew us to them. But as Laura gave us a tour of the store, we were able to learn more about each collection. Georges Laoun sources its eyewear from artists all over the world; its frames are designed and manufactured in Italy, France, Germany and Japan, amongst others. This multiculturalism creates a richness and diversity of concepts, materials and silhouettes.
I was amazed by the creativity and artistry behind each collection. Every brand has its own take on eyewear. Anna Karin Karlsson’s glasses feature luxurious materials, including gold and precious gems. Blake Kuwahara’s designs encase each frame in an outer silhouette, fusing various forms and colours together. Masahiro Maruyama’s frames evoke the beauty within imperfection through delicate, asymmetrical designs that are meant to be unfinished works of art. Not only is every artist’s perspective unique, but many frames are themselves one-of-a-kind. Georges Laoun often sells only one of each frame so that it can create space for new styles. I really love this celebration of individuality.
As I held many of the frames in my hands and even tried on a few, I was able to appreciate all the little details that weren’t as noticeable from far away. I could also feel their quality—whether heavy or lightweight, each frame had a certain sturdiness and durability. You could see the craftsmanship behind the designs. For me, this evoked luxury, but even more so sustainability. However, glasses don’t have to be another form of fast fashion.
My visit to the Georges Laoun store opened my eyes to the world of independently designed eyewear. I learned that glasses don’t have to be boring or serious and they definitely don’t have to be cookie-cutter. There are hundreds of ways to make frames and each one can tell a different story.
And the final thing I learned? My younger self had pretty good taste.