Ollie Quinn brings cool frames and its sense of community to the States with the opening of a boutique in Seattle
When Ollie Quinn comes to town, it’s not about them. It’s about you. It’s about the community. And, of course, it’s about great eye care.
And just who is this Ollie Quinn? Imagine a combo of optical boutique, house-designed frames, and community organizer. Ollie Quinn (or OQ for short) is a company that weaves itself into the local area and builds partnerships in the neighborhood.
“We like to be as involved in our local community as we can be,” says Priscilla Anderson, North American operations manager, “because growing your community around you is important.”
The company opened its first boutique in London four years ago and followed a year later with a boutique in Vancouver, British Columbia. It now has 11 locations across the U.K. and 12 in Canada.
OQ became an independent company with end-to-end production in March. It made its first foray into the United States this past July with a store in Seattle’s hip Capitol Hill neighborhood.
The Seattle boutique is bright and airy with frames sprinkled throughout on clean wood shelving. There are sofas to sit on and a communal table set up in the middle for local artisans to showcase their work.
Here, Anderson shares the OQ philosophy, the importance of community, and why Seattle was the natural choice for the first U.S. shop.
“We take a very egalitarian approach. Our boutiques reflect our frames: fun and affordable. We offer products made from high-quality materials...and it’s all one price [$125 for single-vision Rx eyewear and $225 for single-vision Rx sunwear]. Our customers are not picking something based on how much it costs. They’re picking based on what they love.”
“The OQ customer is looking for something that is current; something that will set them apart. As for the demographic, it varies with each location, but the typical customer is a woman between 18 and 45. But that doesn’t mean we just gear toward them.”
“We believe in community. We like to invite local artisans to use our space at no charge. We like to host events and be as involved in our local community as possible.
“In our Gastown location in Vancouver, we’ve held several markets. We invited all types of artisans—soap makers, jewelry makers, pottery, cards. They set up for a day and sell their wares. It’s a lot of fun because it brings in a completely diverse group of people.
“We’ve had workshops in our Victoria, B.C., store with Lululemon. We’ve had a holistic nutritionist come in. We’ve had meditation classes. We’ve done blind yoga.”
“We liked the city’s eclectic vibe and its welcoming people. It suits us and it suits our brand, especially with all the emerging markets and all the industry. Seattle is in an exciting time as a city because so many people are moving here at such a rapid rate. It’s a diverse and growing center of industry.”
“We have a duo that single-handedly designs and fits out all our stores—Courtney Molyneaux, who designs the shops and is the ripe young age of 22, and Matthew Nicholson, who builds out the stores.
“Courtney spent a week in Capitol Hill, looking around the neighborhood. Then she went over to Los Angeles. She had a look at the colors there and basically brought the sunshine in. She made the store very light and very bright.”
“When we’re creating our core range, we’re thinking about what the big brands are doing. How can we make those better?
“Then, we put them into design. We also work with a very talented in-house design team led by French designer Sebastien Brusset. He’s worked with such brands as Tag Heuer, Lecia, and Sonia Rykiel.
“The collection has a core group of just these fantastic frames that you’ll always see around. We use materials like Italian acetate and German metals. They come in fun colors. They’re approachable styles.
“Then we’ve got the ones that are a little bit different. That’s where our managers come into play. They know the neighborhood and the people who shop there. So, they know how to curate the range for their store.”
“We have space for 300 frames in the Seattle store. But we have closer to 80 different styles on display split between Rx and sun.
“Each shop is different. OQ comes out with a curated list: We say these are the styles we are marketing for this season. Then it’s up to the manager to curate the collection for their individual environment.”
“We take eye health very seriously. Every single location we have has an in-house optometrist so customers can have a full eye exam. And there is also always a licensed optician available with whom customers can discuss all their optical queries.”
Ollie Quinn at a Glance
Focus: Rx eyewear and sunglasses made with high-quality materials from around the world, designed in-house, and sold at one price point—$125 for eyewear with SV lenses, and $225 for sunwear with SV lenses
Locations: 11 in the U.K., including four in London. 12 in Canada, including four in Vancouver. One in the U.S., Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood