Fierce Four Eyes

Warby Parker's Neil Blumenthal Talks New Store in Tampa

Warby Parker arrives at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa.

By Heather Dunhill February 18, 2016

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It's safe to say that since its inception in 2010, Warby Parker has established itself as the no-brainer destination for stylish specs that don't feel basic and don't break the budget. This is especially good timing, since you've undoubtedly witnessed how a solid pair of rims have become the go-to trend from hipsters to celebs to the dapper among us. Not to mention they're a hyper-modern way to refresh your look if you've gotten into a fashion rut. 

So good news: as of 9 a.m. this Saturday, February 20, you'll be able to pop into Warby Parker's swank new showroom in the Oxford Exchange's bookstore in Tampa to check out its collections in person. And be sure to stop by the candy bar for some of the brand's favorite treats--either to eat there or munch on the drive home.

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Before you go, I caught up with Warby Parker's clever co-founder and co-CEO, Neil Blumenthal, to talk behind-the-brand deets...

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Warby Parker's co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal.

However did you break the industry standard of high priced eyewear?

We’re a vertically integrated brand—we design all of our glasses in-house and sell directly to our customers through and our stores. By not wholesaling to other retailers, we are cutting out the middle man and passing along the retail markup that you traditionally see in high-end eyewear to our customers. This is how we're able to provide a superbly crafted product that typically costs $400+ for $95. Everybody wins.

Do you design with a particular person in mind?
We design glasses that we would want to wear: vintage-inspired and classically flattering, but updated with the best design intelligence and an eye for stand-out details.

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For those still getting to know Warby Parker, what three words would you use to describe the brand?
Friendly, fun and innovative.

What do you consider to be the most important turning point for the company?
When we first launched, we were lucky enough to be featured in Vogue and GQ. We weren’t exactly prepared for the crush of demand that followed, and within 48 hours we were completely out of our home try-on inventory. There was a waitlist of 20,000 customers! It required some quick thinking. Customers kept calling and asking where they could try on glasses, so we gave them my apartment address, did our best to display glasses on the dining room table, and launched our first “store” (emphasis on those quote marks). 

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Hats off for being a good global citizen! Not only do you provide eyewear at a great price, you also donate a pair of glasses for every pair sold. Tell us the story behind that.
Before co-founding Warby Parker, I worked as director of a nonprofit called VisionSpring. VisionSpring has a simple mission: increase access to affordable eyewear in developing countries. While working in the field, I was able to see the immediate impact that a pair of glasses can have on a person’s life and career. More than 700 million people worldwide currently live without access to eyewear, which is shocking when you consider that glasses were invented hundreds of years ago. A single pair of glasses can increase a person’s productivity by 35 percent and their monthly income by 20 percent. To this day, Warby Parker partners with VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need.

You’ve chosen powerhouse names like Maiyet, Karlie Kloss and Beck to collaborate with for a spin on the Warby Parker collections….who’s up next?
You’ll have to wait and see! We have some exciting collaborations in the pipeline but can’t spill any beans yet…

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