Forget everything you once knew about luxury eyewear. Optical has. Forgotten, that is. Less than a decade ago, the luxury moniker was mainly slapped on jewelry-like sight devices forged from precious gold or silver and forested with a glittery slew of treasured pebble gems and crystals. That sort is still around but as anyone with a sense of style, taste, simplicity and most importantly, exclusive sensibility will tell you, the new luxury landscape in optical retailing is a vibrant environment enriched by both vendors AND dispensers carefully and creatively feeding a fount of eyewear independence.

This has been a relatively gradual refocus of the category over the past decade but recently the high-profile impact of consumers drifting toward a very specific online source of (cheap in every way) eyewear has spurred more traditional (and usually fiercely independent) brick-and-mortar optical dispensers/retailers to explore the route of deluxe frame options as a viable way of insuring their success dealing with the quest of consumers seeking individuality in their eyeglass choices.

The odd quirk here is that the gigantic impact of the online retailer (uh-huh…Warby Parker) is built (so far) on eyewear based on some of spectacles’ most time-honored style traditions. But make no mistake; current WP eyewear is dull as dirt, horrifically skint on any sort of construction quality and so intensely bland that even the briefest saunter down any street in Williamsburg in Brooklyn will result in your bumping into your exact four-eyed doppelganger countless times.

So it is interesting that one of the most high-profile instances of successful online retailing (right up there, so far, with both Amazon AND Zappos, now one and the same company… can a WP division be far behind?) should spur the most refreshing thinking in the arena of independent eyewear retailing as eyecare independents declare their support to an ever growing band of eyewear vendors refacing the world with individualistic and beautifully-designed eyewear solutions.

Can a company like Ogi (featured proudly on our cover) or Bevel (instanced in this month’s Artist of the Frame) continue to grow and bestow a “deluxe” meaning on the vibrant arena 20/20 acknowledges as the new luxury in eyewear? Yes, and with the onset of 20/20’s 40th Anniversary arriving in 2014, we stand delightfully ready to chart this new course. And just what do we intend to do with that celebrated 40 years of heritage? We intend to take a sturdy stance on it and look to YOUR robustly independent future.

—James J. Spina