Jun 04, 2024

The £18,000 bespoke sunglasses

In Mayfair, London, you will find EB Meyrowitz, founded in 1875 by the Prussian of that name. It’s a small shop in the Royal Arcade with wooden floors and display cases, a roll-top writing desk, brown leather armchairs and a chandelier hanging above a Persian kilim carpet. The place has the air of a comfortable, lived-in gentlemen’s club, although ladies are very much welcome, unlike at some of the nearby establishments.

I’ve been invited to have the bespoke experience, and my host is Jamie Davison-Lungley, whose mother, Sheel, is the owner and worked for the Meyrowitz family business in the 1980s. Her family is the second to run the firm, and the aim has been to preserve the legacy of the craftsmanship that characterised the original enterprise.

EB Meyrowitz does sell ready-to-wear glasses. It can fit optical clear or tinted lenses into any frame, and eye tests to determine prescriptions are conducted on the premises. But its speciality is bespoke. All its frames are handmade in its Hertfordshire workshop from the raw materials; Jamie explains that the frames are carved out of blocks of cotton-based cellulose acetate. Other materials used include real, ethically sourced and repurposed tortoiseshell, naturally sourced buffalo horn, precious metals and exotic skins. A bespoke frame is obviously unique, but here even the ready-made models can come in limited editions. Sometimes these are an edition of two or three. Or one.

“It starts with a chat,” Jamie explains before asking me about my lifestyle and interests. Having established that I ride a motorbike, a Triumph Thruxton café racer that looks as though it might have been made 60 years ago, he’s reaching for several frames from the display. “I’d go for acetate,” he says. “It’s more robust and won’t degrade if you sweat under your helmet.”

The models he selects for me look as if they are descendants of Sixties and Seventies styles, and are chosen to match the spirit of my bike. They are, Jamie says, variations of pieces from the firm’s extensive archive. There is one called Sunset in San Diego in a translucent pale caramel colour that has a double bridge and a teardrop shape; another, in black, the Californian, I fancy makes me look like an elegant old-school industrialist. The idea, Jamie says, is to find a model you like and then to choose how you want it made. He pulls out a drawer of illuminated pieces of acetate that have all manner of patterns and produces thin sample blocks in different colours.

We settle on a frame called the Neutra, named after the architect Richard Neutra, which has a double bridge but a more angular teardrop shape than the Sunset in San Diego and is, I think, very retro racing driver. I choose a brown mottled pattern from the acetate selection, then discuss whether to have the gold pins at the temple showing or concealed (we go for concealed). Why not make the acetate matt to give the pair a subtle point of difference, my eye tailor suggests. And what about the engraving on the arms?

He shows me a pair with white writing on the inside of one arm giving the model name and colour. “We put names, initials; we put somebody’s love notes, and email addresses and phone numbers for pragmatic clients,” he explains. “We put some codes — I’m not sure if it was a bitcoin wallet carrier once.”

• The most stylish sunglasses for men

I need to think about the text, and so am invited to sit in an armchair while my head specifications are mapped using giant measuring callipers. It will take 16 weeks, Jamie says, to make the pair. Apparently I have a “tight” bridge and a slightly wide head, but the measuring will ensure a perfect fit.

As with a bespoke suit, that distinction doesn’t come cheap. While EB Meyrowitz ready-to-wear frames start at £695 for acetate, with limited editions coming in at between £850 and £1,200, bespoke starts at £1,850 for acetate, £3,000 for horn and about £10,000 for black tortoiseshell. If you want coloured tortoiseshell you’re looking at about £18,000.

But then in a bespoke pair you won’t bump into anyone on the beach wearing the same as you. And if I get my Google password engraved on them they will be genuinely