Journal

As Seen in Manchester: Sandy and Gemma

As Seen in Manchester: Sandy and Gemma

Having been open quite a while, we’ve accumulated some pretty fascinating customers over the years. So we thought, instead of going on about us and our glasses, we’d shine the spotlight on the people that wear them for a change…

This time we talked with Sandy and Gemma about their extensive collection of quality eyewear. Regular faces here at Seen, they’ve both acquired some serious pairs of glasses over the years, and are rarely spotted wearing the same pair twice.

The hoarding isn’t limited to swanky specs either, and Gemma has a true magpie’s eye— spending her spare time hunting down everything from rare football shirts to obscure bicycle components.

We caught up with them down at their local pub to find out more...

It’s safe to say you’ve both got a lot of glasses. Have you always been into collecting things?

Sandy: When we were kids, we didn’t get loads of trainers, maybe a pair on a special occasion. So when we did, we’d have them at the end of the bed, in the box, looking nice. And I suppose that’s the same for both of us.

Gemma: I’ve got probably 60 pairs of trainers in boxes now. And then another 20 that aren’t in boxes. I think there’s an element where I like to collect.

So you’ve got that hoarder mentality?

Sandy: She definitely has that.

Some titanium beauties from Thom Browne

Is it the same for you Sandy?

Sandy: To a much lesser degree than Gemma, but I do like certain things. On the scale of Gemma’s obsessions, from trainers to cars, the glasses thing isn’t so bad.

Where do you think that collector thing comes from?

Gemma: I can remember back to my youth a friend of a friend had these amazing Nike Air Jordans, and he was chucking loads of trainers out. I tried them on and they were four sizes too big for me — they were never going to fit me — but I think that was the moment that set it off. They looked amazing and I was hooked.

Is it a case of trying to get the things you couldn’t get back when you were growing up?

Gemma: Yeah, I think so. Last Christmas Sandy got me a full set of vintage Ghostbusters action figures from when I was young, and I’ve got them in my study. And then there are these little pink figures called M.U.S.C.L.E. I’ve got them all along the top of my monitor in my office. They’re two quid — it’s not about how much something costs, it’s about whether it evokes a feeling. 

"I’ve got a 1977 Raleigh Chopper, and I was obsessive about getting all the original parts for that — even down to the little round disks on the front of the Union pedals." - Gemma

With that collector’s mentality it must come from growing up. My dad’s got the first ten years of Motown releases — a wall sized shelf, jammed packed with records. Then his garage is full of signed Manchester United shirts, so I’ve been brought up around that, with my dad being obsessive over things. It’s just a thing humans do.

It can’t really be switched off, can it?

Gemma: Yeah, it’s never “just one more, and that’ll be the end of it.” I go through phases. I’ve got a 1977 Raleigh Chopper, and I was obsessive about getting all the original parts for that — even down to the little round disks on the front of the Union pedals. It took me ages to find them, and no one else would probably even notice… other than losers like me. But now it’s just in my parent’s loft and I don’t even see it. Onto the next thing. It’s human nature I think.

What’s next then?

I get a haunting about certain things, and I can’t stop thinking about them. I’m a big Manchester United fan, and with Ronaldo coming back, I really want a 2008 Champions League Ronaldo shirt. It can’t be the 2021 shirt, it’s got to be the 2008 one — legit, with long-sleeves. And that can be on my mind at three in the morning. It’s not just glasses or trainers.

Jacques Marie Mage Lou Lou
The fabled Jacques Marie Mage Lou Lou. Yes, it does exist. No, you won't be able to find it anywhere.

When did the glasses become a collection, rather than just having a few pairs?

Gemma: I think when Jaques Marie Mage came into my life. 

What was it about that brand in particular that made you want a collection?

Gemma: It’s how they’re designed and the quality of them — how they’re made. Although they could be made in Basildon and I’d still think they were smart. Maybe scarcity comes into it too? I don’t ever think I’ve been in a place where a person has the same glasses as me. I’ve got a Notes file on my phone where I list every pair I’ve got, the colour, the number in the edition and a description of them— I’m a proper loser really — a real geek.

So you’re ticking them off, sort of like an I Spy book? What are you still looking for?

Gemma: There’s a pair called the Pasolini which came out before I knew about the brand. I’ve never even tried them on. I wouldn’t buy something that didn’t suit me— they have to still be wearable. 

Sandy: If she tried them and they didn’t suit her, she’d probably have me wearing them. 

Jacques Marie Mage Fitzgerald
Jacques Marie Magie's Fitzgerald: a thing of wonder

Do you have a dream pair Sandy?

Sandy: One that makes me look like I’m ten years younger... No, I like to go with my feelings when I see them — I like to go into the shop and try on a few pairs. The process of trying them on, and deciding on a pair, is the bit I like about it. I’m not obsessive about chasing a pair of glasses. 

Is there much of a community around collecting glasses? 

Gemma: No — it’s not the same as with trainers. There might be people who recognise that they like the glasses we’re wearing — maybe when we’re walking around Pets at Home or something — but they won’t know that they’re Jacques Marie Mage.

Sandy: People know when they see a nice pair of glasses — but it’s not something they necessarily think about. 

I know sometimes with trainers, pairs are left pristine in the box. Is that the same with these, or do you wear them all? 

Gemma: I do wear them all, yeah. They are functional. I call these ones I’m wearing my ‘slipper glasses’ — the ones I always end up wearing. The model is Pantara, made by Mykita — they were 3D printed and they don’t make them anymore. People are always asking me what they are.

Jacques Marie Mage and Kuboraum. Name a more iconic duo... except Gemma and Sandy.

When did you start going to Seen?

Gemma: I reckon I got my first pair of glasses from Seen in 2005. I think I’ve probably still got them — although they might be relegated to the back of the drawer now. At first I was probably quite tentative, because I was in the Specsavers gang, but I went in and I was like, “Wow, look at all this choice — this is absolutely amazing.” It was an experience. And then when I met Sandy, she started going there. I introduced my parents to it too. 

There’s the eye test bit — which is really professional. And then there’s the styling bit — the part you choose your perfect match. On the High Street, you’d never get that. I don’t know what you could compare it to. There’s that personal touch, in a relaxed way.

Sandy: Being a medical professional, the eye test bit feels really relaxed, but really well done. Tareq photographs your retina, and he was doing that way before other people were doing that. It’s really professional, but there’s nothing ‘medical’ or intimidating about it.

"...I was teaching a few weekends ago, and someone said, “I like how you’ve matched your trainers to your glasses.” I suppose they’re your USP." - Sandy

Gemma: It’s super chilled. There’s no pushy sales. 

Sandy: And they always find something you like. Especially now that they know us. I think people who wear Seen glasses know when they see other people who are wearing Seen glasses. 

Gemma: Yeah, there’s a knowing nod. “You know Tareq then?”

For a lot of people glasses are often treated like an afterthought. Do you find that strange?

Sandy: Funnily, I was teaching a few weekends ago, and someone said, “I like how you’ve matched your trainers to your glasses.” I suppose they’re your USP.

Gemma: They sort of transcend functionality. Ultimately I could wear any glasses, but people recognise me because of my glasses. I didn’t intentionally mean for that to happen, but over time it’s become part of my identity in a way. It’s the same as the clothes you wear, or your haircut. A lot of people ask me why I’ve got so many pairs, but I say, “Well, it depends how I feel on the day.” 

Sandy: You don’t want to be wearing a pair of glasses that don’t match your outfit.

Gemma: I’ve lost count of the times we’ve been out and people have said, “Where do you get your glasses from?” I suppose maybe that’s part of it — a bit of peacocking? Like when you’re a kid and you want the coolest pair of trainers because you want to be noticed. 

The super rare Jacques Marie Mage Aragon in Bone

Are they a bit of an outlet too? I imagine working as a dentist Sandy there’s not much room for expression.

Sandy: Definitely. Because I’m wearing a tunic — it can be quite boring when you’re in your work outfit, so glasses can help reflect your personality a bit more. 

Gemma: People know you because of your glasses and trainers. For me, working at a bank, and going to group headquarters, there are people who are suited and booted, but working in IT as a designer, I’ve never really adhered to that. With lockdown, and being on Teams calls all the time, it got to a point where people would say, “Gemma, how many pairs of glasses have you actually got?” 

Putting on some nice glasses shows a level of pride too, especially when most people on those calls look like they’re still in bed. 

Sandy: The good thing about having a glasses collection is that obviously once you’ve had something a while the novelty wears off, but actually with glasses they are kind of the gift that keeps giving. Although it becomes normal to you to have maybe 15 pairs of glasses, it’s not normal for other people. When they encounter you, they’re like, “Oh, wow.” You maybe forget that your glasses are really unique, but other people don’t.

All the good stuff. Jacques Marie Mage, Kuboraum, Anne et Valentin, THEO, MykitaDITA and Thom Browne.

It’s a collection people can see too — it’s not like having loads of old stamps hidden in a drawer — you actually wear these things and get use out of them.

Gemma: Yeah, we do need to wear them, and they make a difference to my life. I can barely see without them — it’s like the difference between HD and my mum and dad’s TV from 1984.

Sandy: Our thing now is getting a display cabinet to put our glasses in. We’ve got so many of these things.

Gemma: Yeah, we need a walk-in wardrobe...

 


 

As eyewear obsessives ourselves, it's really nice to be able to call the likes of Gemma and Sandy long-term customers. They're attitude and love for eyewear just about sums up everything we stand for here at Seen: that eyewear offers so many ways to frame your you.

If you've not dipped your feet into the bubbly waters of indie eyewear just yet, book a styling appointment and/or eye test with us using this nifty form. If you're already neck deep in frames like Sandy and Gemma but need just one more hit (yeah right), you already know where to find us...