Zenni's Hindsight Is 20/20

Zenni Optical takes its cues from the past.

WORDS Jess Swanson
October 2019

Cat-eye shapes of the ’60s, aviators of the ’70s, floating frames of the ’80s, micro frames of the ’90s—Zenni Optical’s catalogue of frames looks back to vintage design. “Zenni is inspired by iconic styles of the past,” says chief product officer Bai Gan. With its blue-light-blocking lenses and direct-to-consumer business model, the brand has sold more than 25 million pairs of glasses and is reshaping the eyewear industry. Gan predicts customers building “eyewear wardrobes,” as opposed to having just one pair. Launching next month, the brand's limited edition collaboration with Cynthia Rowley features a slew of design elements with a nod to the past, including the tortoiseshell frame in blonde or blue specks and cat-eye frames in a yellow colorway. Here, Gan dives into the eyewear history that inspired their looks.


“These cat-eye glasses represent the iconic, exaggerated ’60s style. We updated them with magnetic snap-on sunglasses to instantly help protect your eyes once you step outdoors.”


“The ’70s were filled with big, bold shapes. This rectangle frame gives the impression of a traditional aviator, which rose in popularity during that decade, but is modernized with spring hinges and metal accents.”


“The decade of excess: In the ’80s, bigger was always better. This square frame is updated with a modern floating lens, bringing this style into the future.”


“After years of excess, the ’90s were a time of minimalism. Micro frames and simple shapes were prominent, leaving oversized shapes in the past. This pair

of thin, round, gold frames are a signature look of the decade and were worn by both men and women.”


“In the 2000s, square and rectangle frames were all the rage. They were found in both metal and plastic and often featured small embellishments for added styling.”

Jess Swanson

Jess Swanson is the senior editor at American Way and Celebrated Living. She graduated from Columbia University School of Journalism. Her reporting has taken her from the python-infested Everglades swamps to a bubbling onsen in Tokyo to a lava-spouting volcano in Nicaragua.


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