It started with these glasses…
I’ve been short-sighted and “four-eyed” since I was eleven years old.
Five years ago, I needed multifocals (now called progressives) to accommodate my age-related reading difficulties. My optometrist made me the purple titanium specs you see in the photo above. From memory, I was out of pocket $700 after the health fund had paid their contribution.
Two weeks later, I managed to scratch them quite badly, right across the middle of the left lens.
When I asked if it could be polished out, I was told that my only option was to replace the whole lens. I was pretty cranky, but as they’d cost me a fortune, I put up with the annoying line in my vision and the fact that the right arm gave me a throbbing pain behind my ear.
Then last year, my friend Valentina told me about Zenni Optical. These guys are the bomb. If you’re paying a king’s ransom for prescription glasses, then you need to check them out. They’re an online company offering a brilliant service – their products are ludicrously cheap, and you can upload a photo to try on any frame before you buy.
I’ve shown you this pic before, but it’s always good for another laugh…
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I wear my blue progressive specs every day – they’re clear and crisp, and they don’t cause me any ear or temple discomfort. The lenses aren’t as high quality as my über-expensive purple glasses, but then again, they only cost me US$85. Zenni charges just US$10 to mail to Australia (for as many pairs as you order) and they usually arrive within a month.
As one of the main problems with cheaper frames is durability, I’ve also purchased a spare blank (US$13) – that way if the original breaks, I’ll have a back-up. Having said that, my blue stainless steel glasses have been great – I’ve worn them so much that I’ve had to change the nose-pads (which they’ll do for free at Costco if you’re a member), and after a year, they’re still in excellent shape…
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Before our trip to San Francisco, I ordered a pair of red heart prescription sunglasses. These were just US$54 and that was with higher index (thinner) lenses! They’re the perfect shape for my face, as they sit high up on my Asian nose and provide complete sun protection. I loved them so much that when Zenni had a 20% off sale, I bought them in black as well. The second pair cost me just $39…
I honestly can’t recommend these guys highly enough. My eyes are a -5.00 script, and I can get a basic pair of prescription sunglasses from them for under US$20 (even less for regular glasses).
The only disadvantage is that we can’t use our Australian health fund, but that’s far outweighed by the cost savings. They have excellent online customer service, and if you subscribe to their email newsletter, you’ll get notification of their sales and discount coupons. Yes, I know this all sounds like a paid ad, but I promise you it isn’t – I’m just ridiculously excited to finally have access to funky glasses at affordable prices!
Zenni Optical Website
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The other eyewear supplier we’ve just discovered is Dresden Optics, an Australian company who manufacture all their frames locally. These guys have come up with a truly genius idea – they make just one shape of frame (wayfarer-style), in four different sizes, and design them to be completely modular. So you can choose one front, different coloured arms, and an assortment of lenses.
We popped into their Newtown store with our new prescriptions earlier this week…
Both Small Man and I chose medium sized frames. They’re made of plastic and come in a rainbow of colours. I needed medium arms, but he had a better fit with the larger ones…
These are seriously gorgeous, but not ideal for my nose shape. Nonetheless, I’ve bought a pair home to see if I can make them work – I found the translucent blue irresistible…
For an Australian-made product, Dresden’s pricing is amazing – our two pairs of single vision glasses cost $89 in total, and were completely paid for by our health fund. It gets cheaper if you buy in bulk, and that’s for any combination, not just several pairs of the same glasses. High index lenses cost a bit more, as do bifocals, progressives and polarised lenses, but it’s not exhorbitant – the progressives are $249 a pair, including frames.
The arms are cleverly held in place with a bespoke pin…
My favourite part of the store was this wall of frames made from recycled products – milk caps, beer keg lids and marine debris.
I was instantly smitten with the grey-green sunnies on the top left, made from salvaged ocean debris. Sadly, they weren’t for me – lovely David, who had already adjusted my blue frames to fit, told us that the recycled marine plastic was too brittle to bend…
One last thing about Dresden – it really is a modular system. We walked into the store at 3pm, and walked out again at 3.45pm with finished glasses – David simply popped the stock Carl Zeiss lenses into the frames we chose, fitted them to our faces, and swiped our Bupa card through their Hicaps machine. This on-the-spot service is only available for single vision lenses – anything more complicated will take about a week to make.
Dresden Optics Website
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So there you have it, two fabulous and completely different eyewear companies, offering seriously affordable prescription glasses. Hopefully you’ll have as much fun shopping with them as I have!