Eyewear for Asians, by Asians

Chloe Eyeglass Model, Image Courtesy of TC Charton

For Asians, eyeglasses simply don’t work. Traditional designs are made for European bone structures and don’t address those with flat nose bridges and high cheekbones. The only choice is to adjust the nose bridge on metal frames, but that’s only part of the solution. Alex Charton, an Asian eyewear designer, says it’s not that features are “wrong”, it’s that eyewear isn’t designed for every face. Charton saw an opportunity and got sick of waiting for someone to do it, so with five designers by her side she created TC Charton. Charton released her designer line of custom frames this spring at the Vision Expo in New York City.

TC Charton offers 19 eyeglass frames and 14 sunglass frames with names like “Alex”, “Raymond” and “Dina” all aimed at the Asian market. The idea for the line began while Charton was developing eyewear for luxury brands in Europe and she was getting requests to create “Asian Fitting” eyeglass models. This term, coined by the companies, simply referred to “their standard models equipped with higher nose pads,”

Charton says. The designer saw an opportunity for a new product to fill a void in the marketplace, but she also saw an opportunity to respond to the personal laments of friends who would always say, “I can’t find anything because my bridge is too low, my nose is too flat, or my cheekbones are too high.” Charton had to stop them and point out “there’s nothing wrong with your features, it’s just that those models weren’t designed for your features.”

Dina Sunglass Model, Image Courtesey of TC Charton

Charton chooses to focus on handmade acetate frames because “Asian people don’t have a hard time wearing metal frame glasses because they’ve got nose pads with adjustable arms, but when it comes to plastic frames it’s a losing battle.” She works to create fashionable, plastic frames that don’t slide down the nose or rest on the cheeks. As the line was being developed and manufactured in Hong Kong, Charton took advantage of the 50 Asian employees of all face shapes: wide, skinny, narrow, and long and had them try on all the different frames at various stages of the design process. She began to see firsthand that one Asian Fit version couldn’t fit everyone.

The line is officially called Asian Fit Eyewear and when asked about any potential controversy around the nomenclature, Charton says that, “It’s not offensive to me, I never thought of having typical Asian features as a negative thing.” Charton didn’t invent the term herself—she credits Oakley with popularizing the phrase when the company released three sunglass models under the title Asian Fit back in 2005—but she is the first to fully redesign the bridge and glasses to fit the Asian face. Charton’s international design experience helps her understand that creating a custom fit is not just about aesthetics, it’s also about eye health.

Design Strategist, Joy Liu of Jump Associates, a growth strategy firm in San Mateo, California spent last spring with eyewear professionals across the Bay Area and in parts of Europe to study eye care health and the industry. Liu explains that, “Optometrists in Europe have a better understanding of what frames work with people’s faces because they write prescriptions as well as recommend frames for particular facial structures. It’s different in the US because optometrists don’t help with frame selection as part of eye care health.” Charton recognizes the importance of a correct fit on prescription eyewear so that the eyes see through the center of lenses. When the fit isn’t right, standard glasses slide down the nose so the eye only sees through the top half of each lens. With a correct custom fit, it helps keep eyes healthy.

Custom fit eyewear is a burgeoning trend for both small shops and large corporations.  Indivijual, an online eyeglass company based out of Abilene, Texas imports eco-friendly sheets of Italian plastic to cut and hand carve into eyeglass frames. Indivijual walks each customer through the process of creating a completely original pair of glasses taking into consideration face shape, nose bridge height, and even personality. Similarly, sport and lifestyle brand Oakley brought the concept of customized fit to the masses with their line of eyewear and goggles specifically engineered to fit Asian faces.

Alex Eyeglass Model, Image Courtesy of TC Charton

With a clear market for customized fit eyewear, how does Charton make her mark? Compare TC Charton’s “Alex” eyeglass frame next to a standard pair of glasses. The contrast lies in the engineering of the nose bridge. The triangle shape at the nose has a bigger opening on the Alex with plastic nose pads that are visibly larger and come in at a sharper angle. It creates a solid fit that doesn’t shift or do any squeezing or sliding. As for aesthetics, the eyeglasses have beautiful faceted-edges flanking each side of the lens that adds a sculptural detail to otherwise standard eyewear. The Alex has a unique, nuanced style and the only design element that is out of the place is the metal TC Charton nameplates on the stems. The nameplates have a shiny chrome finish and they’re disproportionally large for the small space; it interrupts the smooth visual flow from the lens edge down the stem.

While paying attention to form and shape, the company also differentiates itself from the standard eyewear industry by creating frames in colors that complement Asian skin tones. Charton explains that she “hardly ever sees Asians that can pull off very light pastel colors.” She uses the example of creating something for a European woman. Charton “would pick lilac, but for Asian skin tones you have to go eggplant.” She explains that darker and richer hues flatter Asian skin tones much better.

TC Charton makes considered design choices to deliver customized frames that exhibit clean lines yet feel substantial in the hand. Charton notes that in our culture “the European [face] is embedded as the defender of beauty.”  She wants to create something that lets people see that there isn’t anything wrong with their features. She created TC Charton in “the hope that it changes the way people see themselves.”

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20 Responses to Eyewear for Asians, by Asians

  1. Pingback: Indivijual Custom Eyewear / Design Your Own Eyewear Coverage; July 15 – August 15, 2010 « Live in Five Public Relation's Wall of Esteem

  2. lani says:

    what a great find & post! i’m always struggling to find eyewear that fits, so this is super exciting news!

  3. finally! i hope they’ll come out with more acetate glasses with metal stemmed nosepads,too. in tortoise, please! i’d buy them now!! :)

  4. Anne Gnuechtel says:

    Thank you so much! I’ve been complaining about this for YEARS and trying to get my father (an engineer) to develop something to fix this problem!

  5. Gordon says:

    I’ve worn glasses all my life and it’s never once occurred to me that Asians might find it difficult to find well fitting glasses, it’s good that there’s a solution on it’s way. I can confirm that in Scotland anyway, the optician as well as testing your eyes, measures various parts of your head so you know which frames will fit or can be made to fit your head.

    • annmaryliu says:

      I’m pretty jealous of how opticians do it in other countries, especially abroad and in europe, it sounds like they inform their patients a lot more!

      • Gordon says:

        In Scotland eye tests are part of the NHS so no one pays to get their eyes tested, so everyone gets their eyes tested at least every 2 years, the early stages of some illnesses can be detected by eye tests. The opticians look for signs of illness as well as sight problems. Its a pretty good system.

  6. kim says:

    I love my TC Charton glasses. I bought the Alex. For the first time, the optometrist didn’t have to melt the frames around the ear to make it fit better or anything like that. Huge fan for life!

    • Gan says:

      Hi Kim,

      May i know the height of the lens? I plan on buy this glasses but not sure whether the height will be too big for my face. Which color did you bought? If you bought brown color, do you mind take a photo and post it here?

  7. Nicole says:

    My nose bridge isn’t that flat, but I will be looking into them because I have face (or something…) and nothing seems to fit well. The glasses I have are very small and still seem to always want to fall forward, especially when I lean forward a bit or look down (that’s not fun). I don’t think the ear part can be altered since that part is not metal, but the part around the lense and nose are metal, they have one of those rubber nose bridge things (like in the pic in the begining of the article) which helps them stay

  8. I came out with my eyewear brand MEGUMI•O which is great for Asian bridges. My Kickstarter campaign just launched and you can “Rock mega lashes and minimize cheek touch in Polarized UV400 MEGUMI•O” for wholesale plus shipping now. Please check it out my Kickstarter page http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/497524791/rock-mega-lashesandminimize-cheek-touch-in-polariz and my website http://megumio.com/
    Thank you,
    Megumi Hosogai

  9. Gan says:

    Hi annmaryliu , will the frame very heavy? Plan on buy the Alex eyeglass model. So excited after i found out this article! Finally there is an eye wear brand special make for Asian!

    • annmaryliu says:

      They don’t feel particularly heavy to me, I have the Alex and it works good for me. But, I also recently purchased the willoughby from warby parker and they are also super great as well! Good luck!

  10. BroniaM says:

    I was googling for -glass for Asian shape face and am glad i reached your blog. Majority of Indians have well defined nose bridge. Unfortunately I belong to North Eastern part of India and its always a struggle for me to find the right kind. The shapes on the above listed website looks great. Don’t you have stores in India?

  11. Plum says:

    Funny they didn’t see the wider market. Asians aren’t the only ones with low or no nosebridges. I will be looking for these as will, I am sure many other Africans.

    • Gillyvor says:

      ^^^^SERIOUSLY! I’m African-American, have been wearing glasses since I was 6, and didn’t find out until I was 21 that I have a low-bridge nose. I look best in plastic frames, but I swear they’re ruining my eyes because the lenses never align properly with my eyes unless I’m cool with not blinking ever (hint: I’m not).

      This is so frustrating and I am so incredibly glad that there is at least one company out there making glasses for low-bridge noses, but I seriously wish they’d re-consider their name and branding since Asians are by far not the entire market and to be honest (this is an anonymous comment, right?) it comes across as pretty inconsiderate…

      …unless we’re going for a world in which each ethnic group gets their own line of eyeglass frames. And I say this only in a way that I hope can make things better going forward.

  12. Jackpot 6000 says:

    Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with
    my zynga group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Cheers

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