In Store: Eye browse

An eyewear boom has seen new stores open and old favorites prosper. Martin Webb casts his eye over the current spectacles scene.

Facial Index New York Tokyo
At the doorstep of Tokyo station, the beleaguered shopping enclave of Marunouchi has received an enormous boost with the opening of this stunning store for stylish spectacles. Across from Kate Spade, and rubbing shoulders with the rock star-style emporium A.P.C., Facial Index is in good company. Its concrete interior with a recessed floor, meticulously arranged displays and rich lighting make it one of the city's most visually appealing shopping destinations. The success of the SoHo branch in New York, a showcase for many Japanese eyewear brands previously unseen stateside, has allowed Facial Index to open this second outlet within a year. The made in Japan styles here are sleek, unfussy and of the highest craftsmanship. Their practical styling and advanced lens technology, which allows not only for color gradation but different tints in one lens, have been impressing Big Apple dwellers since September 2001. Also on display are the store's own branded sunglasses, built with ultra-lightweight frames made from aluminum alloys developed in Japan.
Open 11am-8pm. 1F Mitsubishi Denki Bldg, 2-2-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-5288-8220. Nearest stn: Nijubashimae exit B4.

Obj East
In launching this superlative shop, Obj East has assembled a crew of Tokyo design wunderkinds, from soundscape artists and color coordinators to furniture and lighting designers. With an interior resembling an intergalactic space cruiser, the eerily lit glass cases of Obj East look as though they might contain samples of alien life. Upon closer inspection you'll find they contain out-of-this-world spectacles. Alain Mikli's boldly colored frames and his collaboration project with British design guru Phillipe Starck, Starck Eyes, stand out with their timeless, rectangular silhouettes. Of Obj East's three original lines, the standout is OBJ water 8 special decenter ver, featuring curvaceous, ultra-lightweight hollow frames. French brand Face a Face's twin-arm look and big-is-beautiful Onkel from Germany also merit close inspection. By the entrance, an illuminated wall displays rimless adidas and indestructible Oakley, Rudy Project and Briko models for every sporty activity from trail running to mountain biking.
Open 11am-8pm. 1F Kobikikan Ginza Bldg, 2-8-9 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3538-3456. Nearest stn: Ginza exit A13, behind Matsuya Ginza.

Stepping into Cradle induces a very different feeling from that of a hyper-designed, glass-and-steel store. The tasteful simplicity of the wooden flooring and displays laid out on four hefty wooden blocks, along with the warm welcome of the genki staff, will make you feel right at home. Cradle styles itself as an optical tailor with an in-store, made-to-order service that allows customers to customize glasses from ¥14,000 or design from scratch from a remarkably reasonable ¥30,000. If you'd feel more comfortable in celebrity-designed eyewear, take a look at the selection of import brands that includes Alain Mikli, Wolfgang Proksch and Selima Optique. There are also three in-house brands on offer: fashion-following Cradle Favorite is stylish and competitively priced; 12x12 is handcrafted, each pair bearing its own serial number; and the new Works brand, is a collaboration with silver jewelry maker M's Collection that would perfectly complement an all-leather biker look.
Open 11am-8pm, closed Thu. 5-11-5 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6418-0577. Nearest stn: Omotesando exit B1, Kotto Dori.

Globe Specs
Globe Specs is firmly established as Tokyo's premier select shop for spectacles. For eye-catching items from top designers or a timeless pair individually made by master craftsmen in Switzerland or Austria, this is the place to come. Famous names and emerging talents have beaten a path to this Daikanyama boutique since 1998 to exchange eyewear tips and stage trunk shows for serious shoppers. The tireless buyers for this unrivaled boutique don't stop there. Hats, shoes and accessories are also carefully selected for browsers' benefit. Latest additions include The Spectacle, a line of antique glasses from the glamorous '20s, '30s and '40s in the US. Already perched on Hollywood noses, these retro specs start at ¥48,000. Also new to Globe Specs is Stuttgart-based Lunor, whose antique, circular rims and twin-wire bridges capture the spirit of a turn-of-the-century German intellectual. Visit the Web address below to see profiles (in Japanese) of all the brands available at Globe Specs and for maps to the two stores.
Open 11am-8pm. 3F Daikanyama Address 17dixsept, Daikanyama-cho, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5459-3645. Nearest stn: Daikanyama.

Stroll down classy Kotto Dori, and your arrival at Kamuro will be heralded by the store's Harlequin logo. But don't think there's any jesting when it comes to the quality here. A made-to-order specialist, Kamuro has expert in-store technicians who will painstakingly see to the specifications of your spectacles. Choose from a selection of frames in-house, or submit a design to get your very own, unique pair of glasses (from ¥30,000). For this service, head for the basement and inquire (in Japanese) at the enormous oak counter. Upstairs, see the selection of frames, most of which are designed in-house. The Big Mouth has arms designed to resemble a shapely leg, while Link boasts a '30s Marx brothers look and Channel sports round wire rims and straight arms in primary colors. Alexander McQueen's distinctive drooping lenses add a touch of high fashion, but even the ultra-conservative frames carry an air of Parisian sophistication. Before visiting this store, or the Ginza branch, you can agonize over your preferred pair online, where most frames are pictured for pre-purchase perusal.
Open 11am-8pm. 1F/B1F 5-13-1 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 5774-9477. Nearest stn: Omotesando exit B1, Kotto Dori, opposite Chloe.

Photo: Anatole Papafilippou (Except Obj East: Nacasa & Partners Inc.)

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