Colette. The Glasses Whisperer. The Manc voice on the end of the phone. Whatever you call her, odds are if you’re reading this, you’ve probably come into contact with the Seen Director of Happiness at some point or other. Well, we’re delighted to let you know that she’s pregnant and we couldn’t be happier for her. And, as she’s scooting off on maternity leave, we’re also delighted that we don’t have to listen to Dolly Parton and her loud voice on a daily basis!
Her last day should be in mid-June, so if you’re in need of some styling from Colette before she goes off to motherhood, contact the store and arrange a styling appointment with her, quick! In the meantime, we thought we'd grab a coffee with her, reminisce about the old times, and find out some of that all important baby stuff!
Hip hip hurray you’re pregnant. How are you feeling? When are you due? And do you know what flavour you’re getting?
Whoop whoop! When we found out we were elated. It was emotional, overwhelming & brilliant, I’ll never forget that feeling. The flavour will be discovered in July when the baby is born - surprises are where it’s at.
So you’ve been at Seen since day one. How have you survived?
Seen is constantly evolving so it’s easy to survive when things don’t get stagnant. We’ve been through two big shop fits and the stock is always changing. The Seen team always have each other’s backs so that helps too. We’re all extremely different people so have lots of variety & energy to bring to the store. The common factors that bind us though are a strong passion for eyewear, customer service and success.
"...Luckily for me, the brands we’re stocking at Seen give me the Wow! not the Woah! feeling.'" - CO
Do you recall the early days? There are rumours of brown business suits and unusual haircuts in your early Seen years. Can you confirm or deny?
The early days were exciting for me. I’d never been employed by such youthful idealists before. Tareq and Conor were full of enthusiasm for an innovative store with fresh independent eyewear and an approach to the clinical I found energising. It was a no brainer to jump on board with them both and strap in for the ride.
The stock Tareq started introducing to the shelves was sensational. My first pair of Seen specs were a luminous yellow and blue Kirk Originals pair. They were nuts and gave me the confidence to chop all my hair off into a noir, mini mohawk. As for the other rumour, I fully refute the brown suit allegation! It was a black three piece 😉
Colette's wearing Theo Stetson Amythyst (an oldie from the early days of Seen)
What stoked your passion for eyewear?
It’s been a gradual journey that’s still ongoing. Although I’d worked in optics a few years before Seen came along, I was working with the usual fashion brands that are prolific in the UK. Then the boys turned up and opened my eyes.
The manufacturers and ambassadors they were introducing me to were (to me) wild. The eyewear sometimes excited me and sometimes I thought “woah, put the brakes on! No one’s gonna buy those let alone wear them.” Now and again we still see collections that I think are too much but luckily for me, the brands we’re stocking at Seen give me the Wow! not the Woah! feeling.
What are your favourite memories of life at Seen? Any funny stories?
The best memories are always about people; staff and customers alike. I love it every time people make a gaffe over names. Tareq gets called ‘Tareek’ at least once a week but my ultimate favourite was when he received mail addressed to Terry Mushtaq. If you ever hear us calling him Terry, that’s why. A client was once convinced that I was called Beverley, much to the amusement of Liz & Ed. Nothing wrong with the name but how you get that confused with Colette is beyond me.
There are lots of fond memories too, people make a point of coming to see us after they’ve moved away, some have been married & included us in their speeches, I even invited a few special clients to mine and Andrew’s big day.
There’s always time for a personal connection here at Seen.
Over the years you’ve developed a reputation for having a superpower sixth sense for picking the perfect eyewear for people. Does that explain your instagram handle? What’s your secret?
I suppose I’m really lucky to not only work in an industry I love, but for a company who encourage my natural talent. I’d consider myself an intuitive type of lass, hence ‘the glasses whisperer’ moniker. I find it easy to read people’s tastes and by starting with that understanding, can build a relationship where hopefully they can trust me to find what’s right for them. It sometimes requires them to put a bit of faith in me, especially if we’re pushing their style boundaries but (cockily) it always pays off.
How has Seen developed in your eyes over the years? What can clients expect now that wasn’t possible before?
For a while now we’ve stocked entirely independent designers. That was a major development as it’d always been the goal but it seemed Manchester wasn’t ready quite as soon as we were. Now it’s happened and the clients are loving it. Result.
Like these? They're Limited Edition Niloca frames with a custom mirror lens
Seen stocks some amazing independent eyewear from well respected designers; Anne Et Valentin, Theo, Mr Leight, and Jacques Marie Mage to name but a few. Do you have a favourite? and how do you choose which frame to wear day to day?
Choosing a favourite brand is like choosing a favourite child - it’s likely you have one but you feel guilty saying it aloud. The best designers seem to have the talent to stick to the core identities of their brands but at the same time have the flair to offer fresh collections each season. Say for example, Lindberg. Their Acetanium & Spirit families do nothing for me but the Airwear & n.o.w! are fantastic and so current.
The collection that never fails to get me jazzed up is Theo. Most of the frames I own are from that brand. They are wear-ably weird & I love them. As for choosing frames each morning, it’s more about my face than my outfit. I usually try 2 or 3 before landing on the pair that make me smile the most that given day.
Who are your glasses wearing icons? who acts as your style inspiration?
My absolute favourite specs wearer is Billy Connolly. It helps that I love him regardless of his eyewear but I so enjoy the variety he displays. Much like my own collection, his embodies classic understatement and out & out wacky because why the hell not?!? The quote “life’s too short to wear boring glasses” is so relevant.
If you’re going to have a staple one or two pairs there’s no reason they shouldn’t be noticeable. Check out another of my heroines Iris Apfel for how to rock the ‘my statement pair’ look.
As for personal style inspiration, it’s easy to be wowed and to pick up tips when you go to the shows. You’re surrounded by creative, ‘finger on the pulse’ people who never fail to influence my eyewear & wardrobe choices.
In this snap, Colette's sporting some snazzy Theo Stromboli in Fluo Pink
You see regular clients every day. Why do you believe people keep coming back to Seen?
Our clients differ so greatly in personality, circumstance & needs that it has to be a combination of factors. The idealist in me hopes it’s because of the Seen experience. And by this I mean the fun and excitement!! Everyone who returns does so because they’ve been happy right? So we mindfully make sure that everyone gets the best out of the store - for them. It’s tailored by humans for humans - fun loving ones!
How are you feeling about upcoming motherhood? Are you trying to cram anything in before your life changes just a little?
We recently went to Portugal on our last ‘baby free’ holiday for the foreseeable. It was so pretty & relaxing. Even the embarrassment of having a hole dug into the sand to accommodate my ever expanding bump is funny to look back on. Other than that, I’m just enjoying the prep. I feel eerily, and most likely naively, calm about the whole affair.
What things will you miss about Seen life?
I’ll miss the people and the buzz. So much so I’m sure you’ll see my face in store from time to time. From chatting to friends and clients it seems I might miss being a grown up too, the norm of Seen life is something I’ve probably taken for granted and I’ll probably end up missing something bizarre like doing frame adjustments.
Thanks Colette, that's all we've got time for I'm afraid. We're all going to miss you, maybe even all that Dolly Parton too. What do you reckon Tareq?
It’s been a privilege to work alongside Colette at Seen for nearly 14 years. I can’t wait to welcome her back but I’m also jazzed to have Erika, Lisa and Neil to make sure that Seen is still the best optical store in the world!
If you want to grab Colette for a free styling appointment before she leaves, or if you're after an eye test, find out how to book one right here.