Not long ago, buying glasses meant shelling out upwards of $300 for a pair of utilitarian frames, because what choice did you have? Thankfully, in recent years, a growing number of start-ups have filled the need for cool statement specs you’d actually want to wear, at prices that won’t break the bank. To keep costs low, these companies typically control the design, manufacturing and distribution—cutting out the middlemen. Here, the best eyewear stores in Toronto for stylish (yet affordable) prescription glasses and sunnies.
684 Queen Street West, Toronto, 437.800.0428, and Yorkdale Shopping Centre, 3401 Dufferin Street, 437.800.2748, ca.warbyparker.com
Celebrated for disrupting the eyewear industry, Warby Parker was inspired by co-founder Andy Hunt’s habit of breaking and losing his own glasses—he got tired of overpaying for boring replacements. His thrifty-hipster brand launched in 2010 and caught the eye of Vogue.com right away with its cool vintage styling. Most glasses start at $150 (single vision prescription lenses included), and for each pair sold, one is given to someone in need.
CF Toronto Eaton Centre, 220 Yonge Street, Toronto, ca.bonlook.com
Founded in 2011, Canada’s own BonLook designs all its frames in-house in Montreal, keeping an eye on trends. In the current collections, you’ll find cool-kid collaborations with musicians (like Montreal electropop duo Milk & Bone), style bloggers (Elsie and Emma of A Beautiful Mess, Keiko Lynn, Lovely Luciano) and other notable names. Glasses start at $145 (single vision prescription lenses included).
732 Queen Street West (opening November 18), Toronto, 416.623.6958, baileynelson.com
Five years ago, Bailey Nelson was just a little start-up line of eyeglasses sold at the beachside Bondi Markets in Australia; now, it’s global and about to open in Toronto this month. (The company has also just set up shop in Vancouver’s Gastown, and a Calgary location will follow this December.) It designs and manufactures its whole range of frames, including plenty of cute acetates in playful colourways, many priced at $175 (single vision prescription lenses included).
The team behind Bailey Nelson’s U.K. operation recently launched Ollie Quinn as its own independent label, and it has already opened locations in B.C., Alberta and Ontario, including four spots in Toronto. Priced at $145 (single vision prescription lenses included), the frames are designed by an in-house team led by Sebastien Brusset, whose style cred includes work for brands like Tag Heuer and Sonia Rykiel.
153 Cumberland Street, Toronto, 647.341.8800, seeeyewear.ca
Short for “Selected Eyewear Elements,” SEE dates back to 1998, but the U.S. retailer has just opened this Yorkville location, its first store in Canada. The company’s mission is to design fashionable glasses at prices that don’t gouge customers. Shoppers bored by mass-produced lookalikes will be pleased to know SEE’s frames are made by artisans in limited quantities. Options in the Core collection are $199 each (single vision prescription lenses included), though non-Core styles tend to go for notably more.