When it comes to shopping, Vancouver definitely caters to some specific niches. Need a Goretex jacket with twelve special pockets? No problem. What about yoga pants in fifty different shades? Take your pick. But who would have thought that we were also a mecca for eyewear? With all of the options for eyewear in this city, would it really be that unusual to say, “I’ll meet you halfway between Ollie Quinn and Bailey Nelson?”
Needless to say that when I was looking for a new pair of shades recently, I definitely wasn’t concerned about not having enough options. But after sifting through all the aviators, ones that look like tiny mirrors, Harry-Potter-esque wire frames, and a multitude of tinier-the-better glasses that don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, I still couldn’t find anything that I felt really suited (or fit) me that well.
Which is why when I stumbled into Durant Sessions’ new store on Main St and picked up a green stainless steel pair of Haffmans and Neumeister sunglasses that fit me perfectly, I excitedly asked myself, “who are Haffmans and Neumeister and what is this store I’m in?”
Durant’s new Main St Store is their third to open—an addition to their stores in Gastown and LA’s Silver Lake neighbourhood. The creative director, Eric Dickstein, who cut his teeth working at Oliver Peoples, is also the founder of Vancouver’s Dutil Denim and Dutil Eyewear—one of the store's most popular brands.
After looking around, I found that their selection of glasses wasn’t the only thing Durant were doing differently—they were paying a lot of attention to detail with the way they customize things too, like their custom tinting, archive of vintage frames and proprietary lens colours.
“We do a lot of things with custom tinting. We have about fifty tints that we’ve created," Dickstein says. "We have our own proprietary lens colours. We have a colour called English Bay Blue and Stanley Park Green.”
Most of the glasses in Durant are a higher price point, but when you see the quality, it makes sense. In addition to Dutil and Haffmans and Neumeister, I found some really cool glasses from local brand Northern Lights, like their mountaineering-style pairs that reminded me of Amelia Earhart, alongside solid classics from eyewear godfathers Jacques Marie Mage, Oliver Peoples and Eyevan.
Besides from being a place where you can order some Bono-by-the-sea-wall shades, Dickstein says he also gets a lot of people coming in looking for specific frame shapes. “We have thousands of frames of back stock. Some are vintage and some are brand new.” The shop even has an archive of frames—some that are 100 years old.
Along with that harder-to-find selection of sophisticated and quirky glasses, you'll find the store is full of music lovers. “A major part of what we do is influenced by music,” says Dickstein. “The clients that come to us and the people we work with—influences the ideas and concepts of what we buy and how we customize certain things for the public.”
Karl Stahl, a respected member of the Vancouver jazz scene, was a dear friend of the store and sadly recently passed away. In his passing, Stahl left Durant Sessions a portion of what Dickstein calls, “one of the most comprehensive jazz collections in all of Canada,” which they fondly play in store and keep on display. “It’s the perfect record collection. It’s incredible.” Dickstein says they look forward to putting on an event at the store with the Coastal Jazz abd Blues Society “commemorating Karl Stahl’s vinyl legacy.” Until then, they'll keep playing the best jazz playlist in town.
2539 Main St.
Hours: Monday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Northern Lights' NL 6 sunglasses, $258
Dutil Eyewear's Good With eyeglasses, $598
Northern Lights' NL 26 sunglasses, $178
Haffmans & Neumeister's Spectre sunglasses, $628
Andy Wolf's Stein eyeglasses, $628