Ten years ago Specsavers was a relative newcomer to the Australasian market and when Australian fashion designer Alex Perry agreed to come on board with the brand and design an eyewear range many tried to warn him off doing it.
It was his first foray into eyewear and some believed it could be a risky move for his brand, but he had a good feeling about it and it’s paid off.
Since that time other designers have come on board to do collections with Specsavers including Collette Dinnigan, Carla Zampatti and Kym Ellery. And this year marks a decade of collaboration with Perry which is being celebrated with a special limited edition glasses collection with just the right amount of leopard and sparkle.
Think golden tones, rose golds, beautiful acetates and hidden details using sparkly stones as well as classic shapes and shades that eco the quality and longevity of Alex Perry’s mainline.
Perry has worn glasses since he was five and remembers as a kid having nothing to choose from.
“You didn’t want to hear that you needed to wear glasses because you were going to wear these weird glasses with thick lenses in them. It was not fun. I remember when Mum said, ‘you’re going to have to wear glasses’ it was like something terrible had happened because there was no joy in any of that. And even as I was growing up, it didn’t really change very much. There was this really sad selection to choose from so when I was approached I thought we could do some really great stuff.”
Already a big fan of sunglasses he knew there was a lot he could do in that sphere. And despite Alex Perry being a luxury brand, he also liked that Specsavers is a family-owned business, and accessible and affordable.
“Growing up we were just a normal working-class family. I was the only one who wore glasses but if three in a family wear glasses, that’s really expensive,” says Perry.
His advice for choosing frames is don’t come into the store with a whole group of people because it just becomes confusing. Instead, take a selfie of yourself wearing the styles you are deliberating over, then go and have a coffee and look at the pictures at your leisure. It will be clear which ones suit you best.
“Often the lighting in the store is not flattering and when you look at yourself in the mirror it can be really confronting if you look tired or you’re distracted by what you’re wearing. You don’t need to listen to the rules of what you’ve worn in the past. Just try stuff on and when you take a selfie it removes you from that somehow,” he says. “Later when you scroll through them it takes that anxiety away and you’ll know what ones you’ll choose. It works every time.”
Perry’s prime directive is to make women look and feel great, and fabric informs the inspiration for his fashion line more than anything.
“My influences are obtuse. There’s never any one thing. Sometimes it is just the feel of something, or I might see a woman walk past on the street, or it could be a song that makes me feel a certain way, and then makes me do things a certain way. I don’t sit at my desk or like Yves Saint Laurent go to Morocco. I design most of it on the dining room table at home.”
Does he think the threat of climate change is changing the fashion industry in terms of trend-driven fashion?
“No, but I think people are more conscious than any other time about sustainability and what that means to different brands. I’ve tried so hard to find sustainable fabrics that make really beautiful evening gowns and it’s almost impossible. I’ve always been sustainable in the sense that it’s not landfill clothing. It’s quality and it’s going to last. [My wife] Mary still has dresses I made for her 20 years ago,” says Perry.
“Specsavers are making massive inroads with sustainability with cleaning cloths made from recycled plastic bottles and acetate renew (recycled acetate) frames. They are also not a disposable item. I wish there were more inroads made into fabric and people talk about it all the time. It’s probably doable for some types of fashion, especially the cheaper stuff that does become landfill but I’m sorry to say I think that those people who are producing that fashion don’t care about that. They just want the cheapest thing. If you’re going to buy a $25 top, it’s going to be $1 a metre and I don’t think you’re going to find anything sustainable in that. One of the biggest problems with fashion is landfill – people just buy, consume and expel it rather than being more careful about how much they purchase and contribute to that.”
Perry abhors fast fashion culture and knows of people who throw out things with the tags still hanging off them. “That’s worse to me. If you’re going to get rid of it, get rid of it responsibly and repurpose it so somebody else is wearing it.”
He’s also not shy about being seen in the same shirt at different events. In fact, it’s something he doesn’t think about until someone comments that he wore the same shirt somewhere else.
“Look that’s normal. That’s the way we normally live. I’m not scrolling back on Instagram and thinking ‘oh, I’ve worn that before’. I don’t care about that. The fact that you do care and you’ve got to consume more to do that, you’re a real problem. It should be nothing for you to rewear something that you like. I’d love to see somebody do a survey on what people chuck out because it’s been seen on social. I think that would be quite a shocking statistic.”