Eye candy

An Israeli artist makes glasses an eye-catching spectacle all over the world.

glasses 88 (photo credit: )
glasses 88
(photo credit: )
Ronit F rst was frustrated contact lenses were uncomfortable, and glasses were boring. What was a girl to do? The Israeli artist and fashion designer, known for her jubilant use of colors, decided to take matters into her own hands and create a new line of eyewear. “My impulse was to make crazy frame designs,” she says, green eyes dancing behind turquoise and red polka dot glasses, “but I knew that wouldn't work I'd have to hold back. The shapes would have to be relaxed, because the colors would be wild.” They are. The face of a cats-eye frame is deep red with orange polka dots; its edges are purple, with pink flecks and orange stripes; and each side is an asymmetrical combination of light violet, deep-sea blue, clear yellow, and bright orange creating a look as inviting as an upscale candy store. Truly original, with bold, playful designs hand-painted by F rst's staff of artists, Ronit F rst frames are now sold in exclusive eyewear stores throughout America and across the globe. “I carry them because they are very unique, because they are hand-painted,” says Fenton Allen, manager of Optical Illusion on Santana Row in San Jose, California a high-end establishment where Fortune 500 businessmen, the San Francisco 49ers and Hollywood celebrities mingle to buy eyewear. “It's something a little bit different, something I haven't seen on the market anywhere else.” They are a hot sales item, he adds, side by side with Cartier, Prada, and Chrome Hearts glasses. Customers get so excited when they see the frames, in fact, that they buy between two and five at once. This kind of feeding frenzy has led Vision Centre in Melbourne, Australia to place an ad that shouts (in capital letters), “Proud Stockists of Ronit F rst.” Only then in small print does it mention carrying the likes of Christian Dior, Versace, and Dolce & Gabbana. “Ronit F rst frames are definitely going to catch on,” predicts Allen, “because they are unusual and fun.” Considering that F rst barely had to lift a finger to get noticed, Allen's prediction seems to ring true. “Once I started wearing them,” recalls F rst, “people began stopping me in the street all the time, dying to get their hands on a pair.” She had sold just a few batches to high-end optical stores in Israel, when she began getting orders from eyewear companies abroad. As it turned out, Israeli travelers had been stopped in the streets, from New York to Sydney, London to Montreal, with locals begging to know where those fresh frames had come from. “They have a younger look than other glasses,” says Orit Shalem, manager of Optica Shel Pa'am on Basel Street in North Tel Aviv, which chose to carry F rst's frames because of the hip crowd patronizing the store. “I love how colorful and unique they are. They are different from others, and they sell extremely well. People get really excited about these glasses... They are fun, upbeat. Customers buy several of the same shape in different colors.” In fact, Shalem laughs, most customers make a beeline to F rst's frames immediately after walking through the door. That's why a Ronit F rst poster takes up most of the window space in front. Store managers around the world report a marked gender difference in glasses selection, with women going for the more outlandish frames and men choosing the more, uh, subtle frames like a rectangular-shaped pair with blue across the front, pomegranate red on the right, and light green on the left with orange stripes at the edge of the curve hooking over each ear. But, F rst emphasizes, “there are guys with courage who take bold colors. Just the other day, a guy who is the most-square looking in the world took the craziest glasses for himself and for his store.” A strong gender divide also exists between F rst, who does all the design, and her husband Ehud, who does all the marketing. “My husband does all the dirty work,” F rst laughs. She then adds with a warm voice, “he was the one who believed in me. My family saw me as always having my head in the clouds.” With her husband's support and the glasses' international success, F rst has gone from crazy to cutting-edge. “You have to dare to be different,” she says in conclusion. With these frames on your face, you will be.