Consumer Confidential: Looking for new glasses? These companies are focused on disrupting the eyewear market

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

LOS ANGELES -- The eyewear industry, dominated by a handful of major players bent on stifling competition, is ripe for disruption.

It turns out that a number of ambitious start-ups are seeking to do just that, with California being a particularly fertile breeding ground for innovative approaches.

As part of a series of columns looking at the eyewear industry, I've already written about Los Angeles-based Lensabl and online glasses store Zenni Optical, based in Novato, Calif., north of San Francisco.

Here are a few other companies worth checking out, with products that range from dirt-cheap to high-end. Each is trying something new, with hopes of reinventing how people buy frames and corrective lenses.

And remember, in all cases you'll need to get your prescription first from a bricks-and-mortar optometrist, and there's a good chance you'll need that person's help in getting mail-order glasses to fit right. Most optometrists will do it for free.

Pixel Eyewear, based in Culver City, wants to become the eyewear provider of choice to denizens of the digital age, with glasses intended to reduce the strain of staring for hours at a computer screen or hand-held device.


"I was working in an office and my eyes were hurting all the time," said Ian Chen, the company's founder. His "eureka" moment came when he asked himself why no one had combined stylish frames with the effectiveness of tinted gamer glasses.

"Our lenses use a pigment that's baked into the lens," Chen told me. "So instead of a special coating, it's the lens itself filtering out the blue light."

Pixel sells completed glasses -- frames and lenses -- for about $125. Like much of the eyewear industry, including some of the best-known brands, it outsources its manufacturing to China.

I was impressed by the quality. The plastic frames appear durable and, more important, the lenses seemed well made despite the relatively low price.


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