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Antique and cool shades in plastic frames are popular among young people. In Vintage Glasses' showroom are various collections, including Linda Farrow's set of Mickey Mouse sunglasses.
Paul Lai believes that groovy spectacles allow their wearers to assume different identities. Rebecca Lo discovers that his Vintage Glasses are supplied to a client list that includes celebrities such as Zhang Ziyi and Andy Lau.
One evening last year, I walked from an appointment in Hung Hom to meet some friends for dinner in Tsim Sha Tsui. Along the way, I passed a small shop with a simple yet striking glass front that showcased some of the most distinctive glasses I have ever come across. After being advised that the wire-rimmed spectacles I admired were over a hundred years old and not for sale, I found a pair called Rachel that I immediately coveted.
They featured a built-in nose rest and the wide plastic lenses were framed in a fine granite pattern. A row of left facing swastika made up a decorative silver band along the earpieces - which I learned was one of Vintage Glasses' signatures.
Another detail was its double set of vertical screws to connect the earpiece to the frame. Trying them on, I felt like a completely different person.
In his favorite movies, glasses become an intrinsic part of the character that actors portrayed. Clark Kent, anyone?
After leaving school, Lai lived for a few years in Tokyo and began to collect glasses that caught his eye from the wide selection available in Japan.
He gravitated toward antique, contemporary and cool shades with beautiful details and craftsmanship.
Though he got a day job when he returned to Hong Kong, he began to hawk glasses in front of trendy local boutiques featuring up and coming designers in Tsim Sha Tsui in the evenings. Lai was 18 years old and it was 1996.
"I made a 3-by-3-foot cart out of wood to display my glasses," recalls Lai.