This site is continuing to gain popularity but the fear of it being repetitive has been lurking behind me for the past year. To keep things interesting, I have been posting more historic design pieces in the past few months and will continue to experiment with different types of content. For a while now, I have been interested in making this a place for photographic essays of culture, and not simply a place to praise great design. Expect to see more ambitious posts (and projects) in the future. As I contemplated where I wanted to take MM in the future, I realized that the connective tissue of the site has and will always be my opinionated honesty. I was recently sent a pair of glasses by Ozeal Glasses to review. As always, I will be perfectly honest.
Ozeal Glasses, an English brand, is in essence quite similar to their primary competitor, Warby Parker. They’re about providing affordable glasses by cutting out the middle man. I’ve had a few frames by Warby Parker in the past and my biggest complaint was their limited style range. Ozeal claims to solve some of that.
The glasses have been sent by Ozeal Glasses.
Being the picky person I am, I paid a premium a few months ago and purchased a pair of Lindberg Acetanium 1236 from a local importer. They have temples made from titanium to reduce weight and nice touches like a bent nose bridge that's embedded in the acetate frame. They're also constructed without screws, not unlike ic! berlin's infamous products. The 1236 run for about €400.
For less obsessive people, paying such premium simply doesn’t make sense, which is why developments like Ozeal are fascinating. Glasses are a necessity and a nice pair really shouldn’t have to cost close to a grand.
The thing I found most interesting about Ozeal were their wooden frames. Most of the glasses on the site are far too flashy and awkward looking but the diversity of styles was a refreshing change from Warby Parker. I picked the least offensive looking Sagawa Fuji Cedars in “maroon & wood”. They cost only $125 and include basic lenses for free.
The case. This was an immediately alarming moment for me; notice how poorly the logo is debossed. I often like to say that design isn’t necessarily the result of “designing”, it’s the result of care, excellence and respect for the user a manufacturer has. These small misses can signify a bigger problem, and are worth looking out for when examining a product.
The glasses. The case is clearly a cheap Chinese OEM product but the glasses themselves give a good first impression.
As I’ve said, my primary motivation for picking these was because they were made out of wood. To my surprise, the frame itself is actually made of plastic and only the temples are wooden. Pretty disappointing and if I had paid for these frames, I would have returned them, especially since the website clearly says “Frame Material: Wood”.
The frame’s plastic has a bit of a translucency which further compromises the illusion of it being made of wood.
Note the skeuomorphic wood texturing. Fake wood is pretty hard to come by except in cars (even that's going away quickly) so this was quite the surprise. To be fair though, Warby Parker also has its own share of fake wood and tortoise frames, though they’re more abstracted renderings of their respective materials. I feel like Ozeal is trying to trick me here, which is when imitation materials really break for me. When will we as a society truly embrace plastic for what it is?
On a more positive note, it is worth giving Ozeal some credit for creating a pair of glasses with wooden legs for just $125. If I were them, I would take the exact same design and make the frame from glossy black acetate.
A problem I wasn’t able to foresee is how you can’t bend the wooden temples like you can with metal or acetate frames. If your ears aren’t perfectly parallel, this could pose some serious fit issues.
The lenses seem pretty good. This has their super high index lenses (index of 1.67) and the anti reflective coating is doing a good job. No complaints here.
The hinges are pretty standard and like what you’d find in most lower-end glasses.
The hinges are then riveted onto the wooden temples. This could have been a nice detail if the execution was a bit nicer.
There’s some nice deep debossing on the inner surface of the temple.
Something that made me have a lot of faith in these frames was how they were marked as being made in Japan. Of course, not everything from Japan is made equal.
There’s another critical issue with Ozeal: it took 4 weeks for my glasses to arrive, which in my books, is unacceptable. I had my Lindbergs ordered from Denmark with more complex lenses and it took less time. In order to fight goliath, these budget brands must use value, speed and convenience to satisfy customers. If I’m sounding impatient, it must be put into consideration that Warby Parker is reliably capable of getting your glasses in your hands in just over a week.
Something that is worth noting is that Ozeal also doesn’t offer home try-on like Warby Parker, which offers ease of mind buying glasses online. The Sagawa Fuji Cedars are way larger than I had expected, which wouldn’t have happend with a try-on program.
Trying to purchase well-made glasses is something that’s still largely an unsatisfactory experience, and comes with a ridiculous price tag. Warby Parker seems to be the best solution to the problem but it has limited manufacturing tour de force, leading to limited offerings. Ozeal Glasses seemed like a compelling offering it at first. They’re glasses are clearly designed by a less experienced team but there was something truly exciting about their diversity of styles and ambition. Ozeal has some serious issues that makes them hard to recommend though. The glasses have mediocre build quality, their shipping is painfully slow and they don’t let you try frames like Warby Parker. It’s a tough world out there and you really need to provide something unique and innovative to stand out in the crowd. If you’re looking for a pair of affordable glasses, I would still recommend Warby Parker. If you’re willing to pay a premium for craft, my favorites are Lindberg, MYKITA and ic! berlin.
While Ozeal hasn’t delivered a great product or experience, they have made me realize that there’s still room in the glasses market and offering unique products can really differentiate you from giants like Warby Parker. You just need to first get the basics right though.