The Technical Meets The Fashionable at Insight Eye Care. Meet Neil Moser and Nicole Hutchinson.

Insight Eye Care has a history in Waterloo Region. A 30 year history that is! This independent full-service optometric practice, with 6 optometrists and a fab eyewear boutique, works hard to ensure their clients get the best service and the best selection of eyewear in one place. The creative team of sales associates work collaboratively with the optometrists to help clients choose the very best frame for their prescription and lifestyle. With a focus on offering independent designers from around the globe, each frame has a story. They offer frames handmade out of vinyl records, 48,000 year old petrified wood and refurbished yacht decking (just a few examples!). Who knew such options even existed?!

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Whatever you’re looking for, Insight Eye Care is sure to have the perfect frame for you. With such a talented team, all technical and artistic, they are able to keep things in house for their clients. Five words to describe Insight Eye Care? Let’s try:

  1. Technical
  2. Artistic
  3. Adventurous
  4. Social
  5. Independent

Meet Neil Moser (NM), Marketing Manager and Buyer, and Nicole Hutchinson (NH), Sales Associate.

Neil (Mikita and Nicole (Vinylize)Neil in Mikita,  Nicole in Vinylize.

Neil scours the globe for the greatest eyewear collections to bring back to Waterloo Region. He values independent, handcrafted and fashion forward frames that are quality at a variety of price points. Neil believes in eyewear with a personality. Back in the boutique, Nicole helps clients choose frames that suit their personality and compliment their face shape. Artistic aficionado that she is, Nicole helps style unique fashion shows and photo shoots featuring Insight’s eyewear collections. Together, these two marketing and media mavens are showcasing eyewear in a new light. They are doing things you need to see to believe!

Read on for our interview:

You seem to be pretty unique in your marketing and promotions. I’ve never seen anything like this at an optometrist office. I love it!

NM: It’s usually the optical boutiques that have a little bit more flair for fashion and that sort of thing. Not so often optometrist offices, but Tim (the owner) fully embraces the fashion side of eyewear and creating a presence. He hired us to make it happen!

NH: It’s nice we can bounce our most creative marketing ideas off Tim, and he says go for it. He’s really open to us trying things.

Especially to build a social media following, you need to take risks.

NM: We were just at a meeting an hour ago with George Briggs Media. They are doing a video for us. It’s a 2-3 minute length story that’s basically an epic nerf gun fight with slow motion action sequences that focuses on the eyewear! We’re doing this to try and access a new demographic in our community which we haven’t yet connected with.

What a great idea! I can’t wait to see it! I have to be honest, I had NO idea you could get such fun and unique glasses in Waterloo Region. I would love to hear more about your take on eyewear fashion.

NH: Well fashion is the fun part of all this! Even when you have a client who says “oh I’m kind of a plain Jane, but I like to have fun,” you put them in a pair of our glasses that may be a bit eccentric and you say just go have fun! You want to have fun! Especially with your glasses.

Well that’s what fashion is all about right?

NH: Again it’s taking risks and doing something a little out of the box. That’s what we’re about.

NM: Sometimes we start off putting our clients in something a little crazy, and they’re like “oh my gosh.” But it’s like watching couture on the runway. You don’t normally wear those looks everyday on the street. But it’s fun to try things on and own a few showcase pieces that start conversations.

Even if you had a plain outfit on and added some really fun, funky glasses, that would look amazing.

NH: I mean you see celebrities doing it all the time right? They wear these big baggie sweatshirts and then these sunglasses that eat their face! But you remember it. You see it and you’re like ohhh!!!

You want to try it then right?

NM: Exactly. We do focus on independent designers here, although we have a couple more mass produced lines – like the labels you recognize: Dior, Kate Spade, Tiffany, that sort of thing.  Most of our frames that come independent designers though are actually handmade.

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That’s really great! I think it’s important to support independent businesses, try and get away from things that are “mass-produced” when possible.

NM: Ya! It’s hard to support independent with every single thing that you buy. But if you spend the money on one thing that is going to last you 2 years, then it’s worth it, rather than having to replace things frequently.

NH: Like if you buy a pair of these glasses, they will last you years, rather than wear out before you want them to. We have had clients who’ve come in here after buying glasses elsewhere and say “my glasses haven’t held up. I’ve had them less than a year.“ Then you tell them the price of frames here and they go “oh well that’s twice as much as what I paid”, but there is a quality difference. These glasses are something even in 4 years you will be coming back and saying can you put my new lens in these frames? These are something to invest in.

Oh definitely.

NM: This designer is actually one of my favourites, Bruno Chaussignand.

NH: Neil is actually going to meet the designer of Bruno in September. Is it him and his wife?

NM: Mhmm. Their factory and boutique is in Montpellier in France. I will be going to a show in Paris and then I’m going to go meet them.

WOW! What a job. Lucky!

NM: Hahaha. Thanks. I’m really looking forward to it. We’re trying to find more small designers that maybe haven’t invested in physically coming over to showcase their product in North America.

Do you go to a lot of shows in Canada to find frames?

NM: Mostly New York actually. I’ve been to Las Vegas, but it seems to be more of a party city than a productive buying trip. But yes, I think Paris will be good.

So what are both your backgrounds? How did you end up here?!

NH: You go first yours is better!

NM: Well it’s very convoluted…. I went to school for English. I taught in Korea for a while. I came back, I worked in interior design. Then I was living in Vancouver with a Korean family that I had met. I was actually helping them sort of acclimatize and get assimilated with Canadian culture, tutoring their kids. Then I brought them back to Toronto and once they were settled I thought “well what am I going to do now? A friend of mine at the time said her husband had opened up this optical boutique and they were looking for a sales associate, so I started there… but it was a little too corporate for my liking. It wasn’t this place. I ended up managing the location but they changed things up and centralized their buying so the frames they carried also changed. The patients were used to a funkier product, which wasn’t offered anymore…to the same extent.

So then Tim posted that he was looking for a buying manager here (at Insight) and I jumped on it. That was about 3 years ago. We try and keep things very in house, so the people working here are very talented. Nicole is very artistic, so she will design a lot of the pieces we use for fashion shows because you don’t want to just showcase the clothes, you want to showcase the glasses as well and have something eye-catching.

Oh yes! I can tell the employees here are very talented!

NM: Next year were doing a really fun fashion show! It’s going to be at Pearl Night Club and will be a lot edgier than anything we’ve done before. It’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re going to have girls jumping on beds then walking down the runway….all kinds of crazy stuff!

NH: It’s just going to be awesome! Another avenue. We can take all of those fun, creative things we haven’t been able to use and use them for an audience that’s just going to eat them up. It will be happening in the spring of 2015!

I will definitely need to check that out! So how about you Nicole, how did you end up at Insight?

NH: So I’m from Pickering originally and I moved out here after I finished university. I moved here, actually for my boyfriend at the time, and got started working at Voila salon. They just needed front-end reception so I got involved with that. I ended up leaving and going back home for a bit to try and figure out life and I came back to town because I missed it. I thought I moved away because I didn’t want to be here and then I got home and I realized I didn’t want to be there. So I moved back. My (former) manager at the salon, Fred, who had started managing here at Insight, messaged me on facebook and said “I know you moved back to town about a month ago,…did you come back for a job, or are you doing anything?” I wasn’t doing anything at the time and was looking to find something, so Fred invited me to come check out the office (Insight). I did and liked it, so I started working within a few days of that.

NM: Nicole actually started on reception but I said no, I need her!

NH: Haha yes. Neil immediately brought me over for to help with the fashion show stuff. It was fun and one of the ladies who worked here in the boutique was leaving to pursue what she did in school, so I started as Sales Associate around December or so.

NM: It seems longer!

NH: Hahaha yes, it was crazy but things all just came together.

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That’s what’s fun about life though. You start one way and then life takes you another way. You just need to pick a place to start. You just need to embrace it.

NH: Yes! And explore.

NM: So we’re just excited to see where it goes from here.

Do you find people are starting to care more about their eyewear today than in the past?

NH: In a way. Personally speaking once I got involved here I would talk to people and they would say I don’t need sunglasses, its fine. But there are so many things that you need them for, and you start to explain this to people and they go “oh, health concerns, I’m all over it. I think now that there is so much more knowledge about what can happen without proper eyewear, people are starting to take more of an interest.

NM: And then on the fashion side of things, people are thinking “oh, I didn’t even know frames like these existed.” I didn’t know they existed let, alone that I could get them here without going to Toronto. You don’t need to! We actually have people from Toronto starting to come here which is awesome.

NH: We see all the time people coming in and saying “oh I got these frames in Italy” or “these ones are from New York, but I love the ones in this store more.” They never realized how localized they could actually make it.

NM: We’re giving people something with a story.

NH: It’s kind of a culture change right? When you pull out those cheap, Walmart frames, or whatever people put on, they are just glasses. And then you have a person with a repurposed vinyl record on their face. These frames tell a story. Maybe the person is a musician or they’ve wanted to be a musician their whole life. You sort of get to start piecing yourself together. These frames incorporate your lifestyle and personality! (Note: they do actually have frames made of repurposed vinyl records.)

Frames that tell a story! I like that.

NM: Just to tell you a bit more about some of the lines we carry. This line is from a company called Drift and these frames are made out of reclaimed barnwood. They also repurpose vintage yachts. They take the decking out and make it into eyewear.

We also just got our first made in Canada line. It’s called Rapp Optical and it’s in Toronto. We’re excited for these to come, probably in September. We really wanted a line made in Canada, because we like shopping local so we wanted something local to offer clients.

I really like the case of these glasses (see photo below)

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NM: We also like to support start-ups. This is EXOvault’s first launch. All these frames are made out of a single block of aluminum. So there are about 500,000 cuts just for this one piece alone. And then there are different finishes that come with your whole kit here so you can adjust the frame a little bit to get a bit more flex depending on the shape of your head. They are gorgeous pieces!

So how do you help people pick just one frame?

NH: Hahaha. We fill these desks up with about 50 to try on! Over time you get used to people’s face shapes and what colours work well with different hair colours.

Are there any tips for choosing the best frame?

NM: The basic tips are if your face is very round, don’t wear something very round, and vice versa if it is very angular. But there are subtleties to certain shapes that you would never think of. I would say try everything on. That is my biggest piece of advice. Try it on! If it’s crazy or looks hideous on you, put it back. But the chance that you might find something stunning….you don’t want to give that up by not trying a frame on.

NH: There are a lot of people who limit themselves. They will give you all these specifics, all the things they think they can’t wear. And we think no, you can wear so much more than that! Just be open.

Well I would trust you! I admit, I’d be a bit overwhelmed coming in here and picking something out without help. Do you know every frame in here pretty intimately then? Just from having to find them?

NH: Hahaha. You get to that point yes! You get a feel for what works on people.

NM: They are like our children! Hahaha. Our hundreds of children.

I can imagine haha! Do you try to bring in new lines pretty frequently?

NM: We do have some staples that we continue to stock. We’re slowly trying to move out the mass produced frames as we discover new, cool, independent eyewear collections. We also want to have a variety of price points available to our clients. We don’t want all these super expensive, independent collections that are $500 to $1000 because then we will be missing out on a whole group of people that want to wear something exciting but can’t afford such an expensive price tag. We do offer some really great lines at the $250-$300 mark and try to bring in 2-3 new lines each year.

So what are the most expensive glasses?

NH: We have these glasses, which are made out of 48,000 year old wood they found in Australia. The wood was buried and preserved, and when they found it, they repurposed the wood into eyewear. It’s a very specific Australian wood that has sort of a gold hue to it.

NM: We have a frame here that has a piece of buffalo horn on top of it. It’s a very limited run from Theo as part of their Eye-witness collection. The frame is a little bit asymmetrical because Theo believes people’s faces are asymmetrical… so why have symmetrical frames on asymmetrical faces?

I honestly had no idea there were frames like this. NO idea! It’s a whole new world to me. Wow! So how do you help people to choose the perfect eyewear?

NM: We like to tell people about what they’re putting on. But we do need to take the medical side of things into consideration too. We tell them why we’re recommending this brand, not just for fashion reasons but for technical reasons as well. We look at their prescription to see if the frame we chose will work with it or not. For example, if you’re in a progressive lens you need a certain depth to the frame. If you have a high prescription, where is that thickness going to be in your frame and then how will that thickness affect how that frame then fits on you? These are a few things we consider. So there’s the technical side and there is the fashion side.

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It’s definitely important to take both into consideration. Then you know you have your client’s best interests at heart.

NM: Mhmm. Well we have an optician here as well as 6 optometrists. Everybody that’s part of the sales team has learned all the technical pieces they need to know as well.

NH: It’s all learning on the job. It’s really hands on. When I started, one of the doctors pulled out a frame from the donation pile (donations go to third world countries), bent it all out of shape and helped me fix it, to make sure I went through all the steps. They would say things like “so if I had this prescription and I wanted this frame, would that work?” I may have said oh yes we can do that, but really you can’t. They would then explain why it wouldn’t work with the frame. It was great practice, to make the mistakes before working with an actual client.

Do you help every client pick out a frame? I would have no idea where to start if I looked around here alone.

NM: It’s not very often people come up to the front and say they have found a frame by themselves. Most people want a hand or need a hand.

Seems like you guys have a great team and system set up here to help people choose the best frames. What a great selection!

NM: In the industry, a lot of high end frame designers don’t want to sell to optometrists because they don’t think they understand the fashion side of eyewear. It’s usually the independent opticals that support independent frame designers, but we’re one of the few that does both well. In the beginning, I had to coax the frame designers to let us support their brands. Once a few of them gave us a shot though and saw how well we could move their line, we started getting more interest from independent designers to offer their collections here. Too many even!

Well that’s a good problem to have because then you can be more selective. Choosing the best for your clients. You do marketing so well too which is definitely unique.

NH: Oh yes! But we’re also very technical. We have our own visual field machine which a lot of times only ophthalmologists have. We’re not sending clients off; we do as much in-house as we can. Since we’re a 30 year old practice, we do serve a variety of clients, including elderly clients. It’s great for everyone, but particularly them so they can come in and get everything they need in one place. We have a retinal imaging machine which not all offices currently have. By taking a photo of the eye, dilated, sometimes undilated, you can see oncoming signs of macular degeneration and retinal detachment. You can also monitor veins, freckles, anything going on in the eye and it’s not invasive.

Ya. It’s technical first, but the frames support the technical.

NM: Yep. We care about getting people to see and look good.

Favourite part of the job?

NH: For me it’s about meeting people and hearing their stories. When I was first offered the position here, I wasn’t so sure about it. I’ve worked retail. I’ve done sales. I wasn’t so interested in that. But it’s so different. It’s personal. Now you’re taking someone’s medical history. You’re taking something that’s very important to them and very important to you. And while you’re asking about their lifestyle to pick out the perfect frame, they start to open up and share their stories. I had a woman at that table over there, maybe 2 weeks ago, who started telling me a cancer story of hers and why she got a tattoo, because she saw my tattoos. We were both sitting there with goosebumps, tears in our eyes, doing her glasses order. Those kind of moments are really meaningful.

Because this office has been so open to being social and bringing people in and wanting people to start a conversation about eyewear, it starts a conversation about other things. And for me, that is the most important thing. I may come in here on my worst day and have a 5-year old child with terrible eyesight running around and saying the cutest things to me. My day becomes completely right because I have been able to help that child, and in turn, that child has just made my day so much better.

NM: How can I top that! Hahaha.

NH: Hahaha sorry Neil! It’s the people I think that I love the most.

NM: I love getting out into the community and meeting new people. We’re not only doing it to bring people in here, but we’re discovering all these new, cool, independent businesses and the people we meet always seem to have something else they are doing on the side. Like yourself!

NH: We do like to support local businesses here when we can! Like for Valentine’s Day we bought cookies from Honey Bake Shop to have at the office, to give to our clients. We do this so we can involve ourselves with the rest of the community who are trying to do the same thing we’re doing. That is, reaching out to give better quality and better service to the community at a more local level.

NM: That’s what makes us tick.DSC_0065

Neil in Dita, me in Theo.

Insight Eye Care is a true gem in Waterloo Region. They support local (check out their fav spots), serve clients and look good doing it. Their creativity and expertise in showcasing frames in a unique way has resulted in AMAZING shoots like Iconic Art and Eyesky which can both be seen here. Be sure to keep up with their latest news by liking them on Facebook and following their Twitter account.

If you want eyewear with a story, this is the place for you!

 

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