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February 01, 2017

Reflections of Hollywood in this Center City eyeglass store

Who needs Fifth Avenue when fashionable frames for your face are right in Rittenhouse Square?

People Fashion
Carroll - Eyesite Eyeglasses Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Joanna Iffrig, optician at EyeSite, models a pair of glasses made by Thierry Lasry for Steffie Christiaens. Lady Gaga was photographed in these shades at one point.

Lady Gaga. Spike Lee. Elton John. What do these three have in common? 

They’re just a few famous people who have donned the wares of EyeSite eyewear on South 18th Street, near Rittenhouse Square.

Easy to miss if you’re not wearing glasses, the nondescript “rarefied optical boutique,” as it's described on its website, “showcases museum-caliber eyewear offering customized spectacles for the discerning enthusiast.”

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Titanium frames from Anne & Valentin.

This is no LensCrafters or America’s Best (no insult to those establishments intended).

But some of these specimens go for a premium of several thousand dollars, depending on if the customer wants frames made from stingray- crocodile- iguana skin, cow leather, cork, exotic stones, goat leather, snakeskin from India, rare wood, horn – even hand-painted cashmere.

“You won’t find anything like this anywhere else in Philadelphia,” said EyeSite optician Joanna Iffrig.

Store owner Gene Kogan has been in business for more than 14 years in Philadelphia, after moving his family from New York City. He relocated EyeSite three times, all within the Rittenhouse area, and now intends to stay put on 18th Street.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Dozens of frames from Face á Face, a custom frame design company based in Paris, France.

“What makes us different is – we have different approaches and concepts than most optical shops,” he said.

“Our inventory is very creative and distinctive. We support only independent labels – all small companies. All of our products are hand-made; small; nothing is mass-produced. [It’s all] micro-production. These are the people who know about how frames need to be done – how they fit faces.”

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“They [come] from all over the world – Germany, France – a Luxembourg company.”

Kogan said Gaga, a/k/a “Mother Monster,” has been photographed wearing a pair of shades by French designer Thierry Lasry. Spike Lee wears the high-end Italian-made Jacques Durand, and just last year, Elton John donned a pair of Xavier Derome specs for the filming of a Super Bowl Pepsi commercial featuring X Factor songbird Melanie Amaro and the infamous Flavor Flav.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Vintage tennis racquet frames from London-based, Oliver Goldsmith.

Kogan also acquires inventory that will (pun intended) boggle the eye – like the six-eyed Japanese concept piece, “The Six Eye,” adorned with four extra lenses.

“Another company uses real buffalo horn – one of the oldest material, besides tortoise shell, which got banned in 1970,” he said.

“I try to run my business the old-fashioned way, like many small businesses would. We know our clients by name.”

Prices at EyeSite aren’t all intimidating. They range from $250 to $2,600. At the same time, Kogan says, if you want something with 36 diamonds in it, “it can be done.”