Seeing Beyond $$$

Big Fashion, Bigger Heart

This past January, Luxottica + Essilor (two big eyewear brands) merged forces to become one. While the former focuses on luxury frames, the latter makes high-end optical lenses. The deal combos brands like Ray-Ban and Clearly Contacts under one metaphorical, corporate roof.

This new mega Italo-French company has over 140,000 employees, and has products available in 150 countries. It’s a pretty serious operation that will continue to sell expensive, trendy eyewear, that is essentially fashion. And for fashion, they can charge a big premium.

Now, for another side to the story of eyewear.

He’s on a mission.

Philippe Rochette, a Montréal-based optician is looking to take on the above-mentioned $15B global empire made of glass, frames and tiny screws.

Well…not officially, but he is seeing the eyewear business in a whole new way (wink.)

Truth is, a lot of people with serious vision problems can’t afford glasses, let alone the fancy kind. There are many people in our modern society that can barely afford any type of corrective eyewear and that really don’t care about Prada’s Spring collection. They simply want to see.

Enter Bonhomme à Lunettes — French for the “glasses guy.”

Phil started this social venture back in 2006 based on the premise that glasses are not a luxury. Specifically, in his own words, his m.o. is:

“to make glasses affordable to everyone. How do I do that? It’s actually pretty simple. When you buy glasses from me, here’s what you are NOT paying for: head office space, a huge ad on a billboard along the highway, or a ‘prestigious’ name on the frame. You don’t pay for those things simply because I don’t have any of them.”

So how does he do it?

Unless you’ve already figured it out, he keeps the price low, because he keeps his costs low. No marketing. No glitzy corner store. His bare-bones setup allows him keep his operation lean and pass on the savings to those (visually impaired) who need it most. In fact, Phil and his team of opticians, pop up around the city (nomad-style) in food banks, community centers and shelters and go to where their “market” is located. How’s that for full service?

When asked by a reporter, “how is it that he doesn’t charge so much”, Phil wisely replies, “why is it that they [the competition] charge so much?”

The majority of his clients pay (for frames and lenses) anywhere between $100-$200. This might still seem pretty steep, but for some, the savings are everything. For them, it could be the difference between paying rent and not paying rent.

Oh ya, we forgot to mention. There are government subsidies that allow people on social welfare to pay between $0-$20 for a brand, spanking new pair of glasses from Phil. That’s what we talkin’ ‘bout!

Also, the Bonhomme à Lunettes team of opticians fixes broken frames for free. Pretty incredible stuff.

And as if this story wasn’t already awesome enough, Phil makes sure to donate $10 from every purchase to the community organization of the buyer’s choice. After 10 years, this means that nearly 70 different organizations have benefited from the 300K that he’s raised.

As someone who knows from lifelong experience (aka this writer has four eyes), having access to seeing properly is life changing. And bringing that experience to others without the need to grow the bottom line is altruism at its best.

Phil, you da man.

Extra good news >> A fellow optician buddy of Phil’s opened up a similar organization in Quebec City.

Here’s to more social eyewear pop-ups! A fashionable trend we hope to see stay en vogue.

Like what you’re reading? Sign up for more good stuff here.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.