There has long been the debate about why glasses are so expensive and if it’s worth spending the big bucks when you can get glasses for under $100 online – now a days anyways. So what is the difference between a $50 frame, a $200 frame, and $500+ frame? It comes down to who manufactures the frames, where the frames are made, and what materials the frames are made of.
So what goes into a $100 (or less) frame? These frames are most likely made with the cheapest plastics or stainless steel (other metals like nickel might be included as well) in the lower quality factories in China. The quality control is probably not that good and inconsistencies between products are quite likely to happen. You can expect these glasses to last you less than a year. They will not hold adjustments for very long (or very well) and may irritate your skin (if you have metal sensitivities). They will probably be functional for the first couple of months, but with time, you will most likely notice the deterioration of the cheap materials put into the frame. More often than not, these are found online and sometimes lack the proper design that glasses should have – ie. the pantascopic tilt that most other frames will have engineered into the natural shape of the frame. The plastic frames will become very brittle over time and won’t be able to handle adjustments without cracking. Metals may erode or rust over time when exposed to water or sweat. Overall, these frames are not good quality and cannot be depended on for very long.
Price is not always an indication of quality, but is a good general guideline to go buy. It is always best to ask questions about frames to see – sometimes the best quality frames are not the most expensive. Brand names are not always an indication of quality either, as big companies such as Luxoticca own many brand name frame manufacturing rights and sometimes you are just paying for the name (the materials are more or less the same amongst name brands). Independent brands (brands not owned by any of the big manufacturing groups) tend to produce the highest quality and use the best materials. Some of these include our favourites: MYKITA, Salt, Etnia Barcelona, and Andy Wolf (coming soon).
Independent brands have always been my personal favourite frames. Their designs are always more unique and you always know that the quality is there. The type of acetates (plastics) and metals (sometimes titanium) will be utilized to ensure top of the line quality. These will last longer and hold adjustments longer as well – especially if they’re an acetate frame with a titanium core (meaning that there’s titanium supporting the acetate). Most of them are hand-made in the respective countries where they originated and have some sort of story behind their brand and frames in each collection they produce. This gives each piece a sense of individuality. MYKITA is known for their minimalist yet modern design. Salt for it’s nature inspired timeless pieces. Etnia for their ability to combine different coloured acetates and for creativity in design with unique colour combos.
If the manufacturing rights for a brand are owned by one of the manufacturing giants, it doesn’t always mean they’re all the same quality. There are different tiers of factories in China and depending on the brand, they are still made in factories in Italy and such (it’s just all of them might come from the same factory in the respective country). Unless the brand manufacturing is owned by the fashion house itself, it is not actually “made by” the brand fashion house. That is why brand boutiques won’t carry the frames that are not actually produced by that fashion house.
Overall, it comes down to what’s important to you. If you want the brand name then for majority of frames, you’ll have to accept the fact that it might not actually be produced by the fashion house and if the frame is $400+, you’re probably just paying for the brand. From what I’ve experienced and seen, the independent brands provide superior quality with different price ranges ($200+).