Anatomy of an Eye Care Influencer


Eyewear sits at a special intersection — it’s both a medical device, found at an optometrist’s office, and a fashion accessory found on the runway of many luxury brands. It’s a popular topic on social channels, and within the influencer community there are a wide range of voices speaking to eye care on topics including eye health, UV protection, glasses trends, how to style eyewear with your clothing and representation within the industry.

Here WWD talks to seven eye care social media stars about their passions and what topics resonate with their followers:

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Dr. Sophia Visanji with models in her Aliana Rose eyewear. - Credit: Courtesy

Dr. Sophia Visanji with models in her Aliana Rose eyewear. – Credit: Courtesy

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Dr. Sophia Visanji @themonoclemuse

WWD: What got you interested in optometry?

S.V.: I worked for an optometrist who was very passionate about the profession and eventually inspired me to go to optometry school. As I started learning more about the field, I found that it married all of my passions, including science, medicine, health care, but also business and fashion.

WWD: What led you to use social media as a way to talk about eye care?

S.V.: Social media was a creative outlet for me to pursue my passion for fashion and photography, and what better topic to speak about than one I was wildly passionate and knowledgeable about — eyewear and eye health? With a hope to inspire new ways to pair eyewear with street-style trends, I began infusing the latest independent eyewear brands that were emerging in the optical industry with my daily looks. I also use my platform to share some insight about my roots, my lifestyle in New York City, and my love of travel.

WWD: Can you speak to how you converge street style, trends and eyewear?

S.V.: They all kind of go together quite effortlessly. While eyewear is a medically necessary device, it’s also many fashionistas’ favorite accessory. It’s the thing that can bring a whole look together. Naturally it’s my favorite accessory and sometimes I will build a whole look around the glasses I want to wear for the day.

WWD: What topics around eye care resonate with you and your followers?

S.V.: Being primarily a fashion and lifestyle content creator, much of my content as it relates to eye care is centered around eyewear trends in the industry — the latest independent eyewear brands, which shapes look best on which face type, which sunglasses to pair with what look, as well as the importance of UV protection all year round. I also speak about the latest lens technologies and which coatings and lenses my audience should consider when purchasing their next pair of glasses.

WWD: Tell me about your recently launched eyewear line:

S.V.: Starting my own eyewear line has always been a dream of mine. After years of pursuing two different careers, it was finally time for my two worlds to collide. Aliana Rose is a luxury eyewear brand inspired by places of the world and the charm of past eras. Each model is designed from scratch in New York City and made from high-quality Italian Mazzucchelli acetate. All of our unisex sunglasses are Rx-able and can be made into prescription glasses by your local optical. Our launch included one style — an eclectic twist on the elongated shape that was popular in the ’90s era in five bold colors inspired by the region of Zanzibar, Tanzania — paying homage to my grandmother’s birthplace. The price point is mid-range at $225 and is available directly on our website as well as via our distributors.

Tarrence Lackran - Credit: Courtesy

Tarrence Lackran – Credit: Courtesy

Courtesy

Tarrence Lackran @theopticalpoet

WWD: Briefly tell me about your background and what got you interested in eyewear?

T.L.: My first job in the industry was working for Vision Expo where I traveled around the world meeting with independent retailers and designers. I got to know and appreciate each individual’s creative process behind their pieces and the way they presented eyewear to the world. When I would hear the inspirations behind some of the pieces and then try them on, I would almost take on different personas that corresponded to the inspirations. Eyewear allowed me to express my mood and identity depending on how I was feeling that day.

WWD: What shapes/types/styles of eyewear receive high engagement on your social channels?

T.L.: Being a Black man who’s on the brawny side, I am definitely an underserved consumer in the eyewear space. There aren’t many designers that cater to features that are common in Black populations such as wide bridges and longer temples. Mix that with a plus-size face and it can be a challenge to find frames that aren’t a simple black or tortoise acetate. So when I hit the jackpot and find stylish or even avant-garde pieces that will fit this underserved population and I’m able to post me wearing the piece or the story behind the designer that’s responsible for it, this tends to get the most engagement.

WWD: What topics around eye care resonate with you and your followers?

T.L.: Although frames and fashion get high engagement, what separates me from other influencers is being able to showcase people, events, and the goings-on in the industry. It could be what to expect at trade events like Vision Expo, new boutique openings that I attend, or a celebrity partnership event. The eyewear community is spread out all over the world, so I try to make it seem smaller and bring everyone together.

WWD: What types of materials, shapes or newness do you look for in the eyewear you wear and post about?

T.L:. For me it’s up-and-coming designers that are providing us something fresh. The fresh part could be anything from colors, shapes or materials, but the main thing is that the eyewear tells a unique story. These stories can be where the designers drew inspiration from, such as nature, architecture, or a moment in history. People want to feel a connection with what they are wearing, and these stories serve as great conversation starters after someone says, “I love your glasses!”

WWD: You launched the Opening Your Eyes Scholarship program a little over a year ago. What goals you have set for the program this year?

T.L.: The Opening Your Eyes Scholarship (OYES) provides full scholarships and paid internships to high school students from Black and Brown communities who desire to have a career in the optical industry. Our inaugural year was a huge success, raising over $300,000 in donations and sending our first seven students to school to pursue their associates degree in Opticianry. For the 2022 school year we plan to double the number of students and open it up nationally. This scholarship has opened the eyes to these students from underrepresented communities to a career path that they were not aware of. It has also opened up the industry’s eyes to the need of more representation throughout eye care and eyewear. If these seven students are representative of the future of eyewear…then I would say the industry is in good hands.

Sheena Taff - Credit: Courtesy

Sheena Taff – Credit: Courtesy

Courtesy

Sheena Taff @Optician.about.town

WWD: Briefly tell me about your background and what got you interested in optometry?

S.T.: I am a second-generation optician; both of my parents worked as opticians across different sectors of the industry, so I grew up around all things glasses and vision. I didn’t intend to follow in their footsteps, I studied marketing and began my career in the beauty industry. From there I entered the world of finance, a complete change of pace from the cosmetics sector. My family optical shop was short-staffed and needed some temporary help… needless to say it was destined to be my path; 12 years later it is my primary focus day to day and the store has become a reflection of my style. Looking back, my previous careers laid the perfect groundwork for my eyewear passion.

WWD: What led you to use social media as a way to talk about eye care?

S.T.: For the most part people don’t really understand the role of an optician and we are unrepresented in eye care. Most opticians don’t have the same passion about elevating the experience beyond a transaction or sale, because they haven’t been exposed to the right environment or mentor. I used social media to connect, learn from and inspire fellow optician’s and ECP’s [eye care professionals]. This is a career with so much creative freedom, an opportunity to express personal style through clothes and glasses. I create a connection with patients that is as close as the one you have with your trusted hairstylist. I get to show a larger audience through social media that an optician is an indispensable part of finding the wardrobe of eyewear.

WWD: What topics around eye care resonate with you and your followers?

S.T.: I’m really into the storytelling of eyewear, what is the identity of the glasses/sunglasses? What features make it special? I love how glasses and sunglasses give you the opportunity to chameleon into a different character in your own life. No drastic haircut needed to change your look, simply change your eyewear. Take, for example, a fabulous pair of big oversize dark sunglasses. Instant drama — movie stars have been doing it for decades in pursuit of the “look at me, don’t look at me” eye style. This one simple accessory that also offers eye protection for the health of your eyes is all you need to feel fantastic, even if you’ve paired them with a white shirt and jeans. I like sharing the diversity of eye styles and new trends. When I see hundreds of glasses every month, thousands if you count the months I attend Vision Expo, I can spot the early signs of eyewear trends to come. Then, through my clients, I can really get a feel for the consumer adoption of new styles, because not everything sticks from the runways to the practical wear, especially with the client getting into a long-term relationship with their eyewear.

WWD: Can you expand on how eyewear fits into personal style?

S.T.: If you asked someone if they only had one bag, pair of shoes or one jacket they would think you’re crazy; they have a closet full of them to match their mood, activity or the season. Yet most eyeglass wearers have one pair of glasses. One, for on average a two-year timeframe. That’s just not acceptable, people are looking at your face and your glasses before they take in anything else you’re wearing. Your glasses say so much about you, they are something that can make you look 10 years younger or 10 years older, yet the connection to them being a requirement can move them from our style psyche to need. Eyewear can say so much about a person without them having to say a word. Glasses can be an icebreaker and really increase someone’s approachability. Even clients who might have a conservative style can show their artistic or playful side through their glasses.

WWD: Are there any trends you see in eyewear for 2022 (shapes, styles, colors, lens, etc.)?

S.T.: Minimal metal frames are making a strong comeback, and these are not your grandma’s wire rim glasses. Oversize frames with architecturally interesting lines keep this eyewear style’s impact high, even when the thickness of the frame is delicate. Geometric shapes are poised to make a mainstream debut. Octagons, hexagons, square and butterfly shapes reminiscent of the late ’60s and early ’70s are big for spring 2022 and are an easy addition to any eyewear wardrobe. Especially oversize sunglasses with lighter lenses. Perfect for pairing with flared denim, anything crochet and long feminine dresses. Lighter colored lenses (20 to 40 percent tint saturation) make your eyewear an absolute part of your outfit. Sunglasses you never have to take off are a great style for a non-prescription lens wearer, or a lens tint option that can be added to Rx lenses to add depth and an unmistakable fashion element.

Dr. Athena Brasfield, O.D. - Credit: Courtesy

Dr. Athena Brasfield, O.D. – Credit: Courtesy

Courtesy

Dr. Athena Brasfield, OD @drbrasfield

WWD: Briefly tell me about your background and what got you interested in optometry ?

A.B.: Optometry is in my blood. I was born and raised in this industry, as my parents are both master opticians and during my childhood they owned and operated an independent optical shop in Newport Beach, Calif., for over 25 years. I grew up loving the fashion and style that a fabulous pair of glasses could provide…the ability to transform a look into something beyond the typical.

WWD: What led you to use social media as a way to talk about eye care?

A.B.: I started this blog because I am a girly girl who absolutely loves fashion, beauty and style…I always have, and I always will. I think it’s just so fun to express yourself through clothing and accessories, especially eyewear. I actually used to want to work in the fashion industry at one point when I was a young girl, but I also wanted to do something with more meaning, such as helping communities and giving back to others. I’ve found that optometry allows me to do both, and I want to share that with the world.

On the medical side, we treat unusual pathology, save sight, and help others see the world more clearly, which is truly amazing and so gratifying. But on the retail side, we also have the opportunity to help others look and feel their best, which is more creative, fun and exciting. I thought that the second component was largely missing from a lot of what I was seeing online from other eye care professionals. There was a lot of medical information out there but not as much content focusing on the fashion aspect.

WWD: Any eyewear trends you see coming in 2022?

A.B.: Oversize frames — for 2022, bigger is better. More people want to make a statement with their eyewear by choosing big bold pieces with thick rims and dark colors in oversize styles. Pastel acetate frames — frames with soft pastel hues in transparent acetates are flattering and interesting. They also add a fun, yet subtle, pop of color which can still work as a neutral to complement the wearer’s wardrobe. Round wire frames — minimalistic and hip, these frames are a go-to with Millennials and Baby Boomers alike. They are delicate and blend in seamlessly with the wearers’ facial features.

WWD: What topics around eye care resonate with you and your followers?

A.B.: My most popular topics are everyday advice: is it bad to wear your glasses all the time, how to care for your eye health, etc.

WWD: You post about beauty, fashion, being a chief executive officer and eye care. Can you speak to that intersectionality as a storyteller?

A.B.: Vulnerability is a huge challenge. For many years, I felt I had a dual personality: “work” me and “outside work” me. The “work” me was professional, conservative and business-minded. The “outside work” me was fun, creative and colorful. I often felt that the two had to remain separate to have a successful career. But with my social pages I made a decision to show that “outside work” personality more and more while still maintaining my “work” title and expertise. As a clinician, I think showing both sides makes you more human, more relatable. It’s about finding a sense of balance between everything.

Dr. Darryl Glover - Credit: Nikia Williams

Dr. Darryl Glover – Credit: Nikia Williams

Nikia Williams

Dr. Darryl Glover @DrDarrylGlover

WWD: Briefly explain how got you interested in optometry?

D.G.: I have been in the eye care Industry for over 20 years. I have held every position possible, from eyewear consultant to optometrist. My journey started when I sold my first pair of glasses. I had the opportunity to style a patient with no direction. When the patient picked up their glasses, they looked in the mirror, around the office, and directly at me with a big smile and said, “Thank you! You have changed my life.” From this point, I knew that eye care was my desired profession. From there, I told myself that I wanted to help people daily with the most precious sense known to mankind: sight. I wanted to put a smile on all my patients’ faces. Ever since then, my purpose has been to create a state of happiness through the art of vision.

WWD: What led you to use social media as a way to talk about eye care?

D.G.: Timing. As a seasoned Millennial, social media was just hitting the scene heavy when I graduated from optometry school. Most of my patients were on social media and wanted to connect. As a result, I shared frame designs and eye care tips. As a result, I am now known as everyone’s favorite optometrist!

WWD: What topics around eye care resonate with you and your followers?

D.G.: I see all patients from the womb to the tomb. Most of my patients are African American women who work in various fields. Ocular aesthetics, fashionable eyewear, and lens technology are heavily discussed in my practice and with my followers.

WWD: What three topics in optometry are you most passionate about right now?

D.G.: I am currently excited about the awareness and acceptance of diversity in eye care. Additionally, I am excited about the cutting-edge technology and innovation that will help to us connect with more patients. Lastly, the world of ocular aesthetics. As optometrists, it is imperative that we own this space.

WWD: You cofounded the Black Eyecare Perspective. What types of events or community outreach do you have planned for that organization over the next six months?

D.G.: Black Eyecare Perspective was created to help redefine the color of the eye care industry 1 percent at a time. We have focused on cultivating relations between Black doctors of optometry and opportunities in the eye care industry, connecting communities with Black eye care professionals and Black eye care businesses and creating a pipeline for Black students into optometry. Over the next six months, we will host our signature events: Signing Day and Impact HBCU. Signing Day is a celebration of the achievements of the Black Eyecare Perspective Pre-Optometry Club members who have gained acceptance into a school or college of optometry, as well as recognize any student who will be a part of the class of 2026. Impact HBCU is an event where Black Eyecare Perspective and optometrists of the Black community create awareness of the optometry profession. We highlight Black doctors and students and share the journey of becoming an optometrist with HBCU schools and Black students.

Dr. Jennifer Tsai - Credit: Courtesy

Dr. Jennifer Tsai – Credit: Courtesy

Courtesy

Dr. Jennifer Tsai @drjenandjuice

WWD: Briefly describe your background and what got you interested in optometry?

J.T.: I started wearing glasses as a child and dealt with a variety of eye conditions growing up, such as a corneal ulcer and a retinal tear. So early on, I understood the importance of vision and how proper eye care can make a big impact. I’ve always had a passion for health, fashion and entrepreneurship, so I opened my start-up practice Line of Sight in 2020 with a reimagined approach to eye care. Line of Sight focuses on providing full-scope optometric care with an extensive focus on holistic wellness and ocular aesthetics.

WWD: What led you to use social media as a way to talk about eye care?

J.T.: I started my social media page @drjenandjuice a few years ago, when I recognized that there was a lack of up-to-date, modern information on eye care and vision. I specialized in a few treatments that many of my patients have never heard of before, like myopia management and light-based dry eye therapy. I realized there was a major need to share my knowledge and advice on social media in order to better inform my community on eye care.

WWD: Any eye care or eyewear trends you see coming in 2022?

J.T.: In 2022, I see a big focus on dry-eye therapy for preventative health. The amount of increased screen time during the pandemic has caused many people to experience dry, irritated eyes. There are new exciting therapies that have come out recently to help with dry eyes. In terms of fashion, I see a big comeback of round or rectangular-shaped bold acetate frames with vibrant neon and pastel colors. Sporty frames that provide an edgy look have also become more popular lately. As well as wearing tinted lenses indoors with colors in rose, lime green, or blue.

WWD: What topics around eye care resonate with you and your followers?

J.T.: I take a thoughtful, preventative approach to eyewear — and the treatments I provide in my practice resembles that. I’ve shared info on a new daily eyedrop that helps with presbyopia (unfocused near vision) and many of my followers found that exciting. I’ve also shared info on Ortho-K, a treatment that corrects myopia (unfocused distance vision) while you sleep and slows down myopia progression, and that was something surprisingly new for many of my followers.

Mac Joseph - Credit: Courtesy

Mac Joseph – Credit: Courtesy

Courtesy

Mac Joseph @mcarthurjoseph

WWD: Briefly discuss your background and what got you interested in eyewear?

M.J.: I’m currently a creative director at Condé Nast Entertainment as well as a social content creator and DJ. I’ve been wearing glasses ever since I was in fifth grade so combined with my growing love of fashion really drove my love for eyewear. I used to only get one pair of glasses a year because of my parents’ insurance plan, but as soon as I started working post-college I’ve always made sure to cycle through different types of frames.

WWD: What shapes/types/styles of eyewear receive high engagement on your social channels?

M.J.: I think the flashier the better usually gets the most engagement. I love to experiment, and I think a lot of my followers always want to try out new styles they see online and I give them a real world view on how they can style them. That said, I have these clear round frames that I’ve worn for years and people still ask about them when I post.

WWD: What topics around eye care resonate with you and your followers?

M.J.: New optical shops/brands. Places in the city to see an optometrist that don’t feel stuffy/cost an arm and a leg.

WWD: What types of materials, shapes or newness do you look for in the eyewear you wear and post about?

M.J.: I’m always looking for color and interesting new shapes. I’m very big on having a classic shape (mine is big and circular) and then having pairs that you don’t wear daily, but when you do, you know it’s going to pop. I try not to be incredibly trendy because you never want to buy a pair and then six months later everyone looks at you like a fashion victim.

WWD: Color and shape play a strong role in your imagery, how do you creatively ”set the scene” based around the eyewear you want to post about?

M.J.: Glasses are actually the last thing I put on in an outfit. I’m very big on either being monochromatic or colors that feel like they clash, but end up complementing each other. I treat my frames as the cherry on top since they are on my face at all time.

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