Optical Oddities

20/20 Magazine
Optical Oddities
Lauren Siegal

Have you ever heard of “Convertibles”? They are sunglasses equipped with clips on the side to hold a woman’s hair back while she drives… in a …convertible. Do you know anyone looking for a pair of 12-karat gold frames with crystal lenses from the 1700s? What about a pair of Alpina sunglasses, just like the ones Elvis used to wear? These are just some of the optical oddities available at Fabulous Fanny’s, an antique and vintage eyewear shop in New York’s East Village.

“Most people come to us because they want something different,” says Stanton Blackmer, owner of Fabulous Fanny’s. The boutique is filled with one-of-a-kind eyewear—a sort of eyewear museum where the customers can purchase the exhibits and get a detailed history of each frame.

“I grew up in the service industry,” explains Blackmer. “I like the idea that I’m helping people and doing something that no one else can do. I help people create a new look.”

Blackmer, along with his partner Ken Finneran, boast one of the largest collections of vintage and antique eyewear on the East Coast. According to Blackmer, he owns approximately 30,000 pairs of frames, but only displays 3,000 pairs at a time. Some of the frames date back through the 18th century. Most of his frames come from flea markets and opticians’ back rooms, though his collection first evolved from his mother’s old frames.

“I am always looking,” he notes. (His personal eyewear collection, which includes vintage eyewear masks, will be on display at the Triple Pier Antique Show in New York in March of next year.)

Originally, Blackmer sold his frames in flea markets. He soon built up a “nice customer base” that he didn’t want to lose. When he opened the store three years ago, Blackmer decided not to locate in trendy downtown Soho or midtown Manhattan where a large amount of New York’s business is situated, so he could keep his retail prices reasonable.

While Blackmer does sell his eyewear to many antiques collectors, his shop caters to retail customers as well as such celebrity clientele as Britney Spears and Bette Midler. Celebrity or not, he spends time with each to ensure the shape and fit of the frame works.

In addition to antique frames, Fabulous Fanny’s carries vintage clothing, jewelry and other accessories such as handbags and shoes. Highlights include vintage and costume jewelry by Chinwa Kenjyatta, whose “thing” necklaces were popular in the ’70s.

Blackmer also carries Corrine McCormack frames, which he embellishes with rhinestones, as well as custom made antique eyeglass lens earrings, which he ornaments with stones and feathers. (The shop’s products can be viewed on the web at www.fabulousfannys.com.)

Blackmer says that he doesn’t have a typical customer. Clearly, he doesn’t have a typical shop either. — Lauren Siegal

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