Opened last spring by two French eyewear distributors, Assia and Rama Valentin, Atelier Mira has become Williamsburg’s (dare we say New York’s?) chicest optical and luxury goods boutique. Taking the name to heart—"atelier" means “workshop” in French and "mira" means “look” in Spanish—the shop is focused on handmade frames from independent and difficult to find international labels from as far as Berlin and Japan. Mira also sells curated leather goods and artisanal fragrances from around the globe.
But even if you're not in the market for new eyewear, the shop is worth a visit. With a custom stained glass artwork, original pieces from the Memphis Group—yes, they're for sale—and welcoming lounge areas, Atelier Mira feels more like a neighborhood art gallery than an eye glasses boutique. We recently chatted with the Valentins to get the scoop on the store's design and learn more about how they curated such a unique shop.
We love that your shop features designs from the Memphis Group—they're so hard to find. How did you make that happen?
When we discovered that Memphis Milano still uses the same Italian manufacturing facility as they did initially in the 1980s, we reached out to the distributer who happens to be based in Brooklyn. We have been life-time fans of Memphis Milano, and were hard-pressed to find any other retailer in New York where we could shop these iconic pieces in person.
Memphis pieces make a splash in a room that cannot be under-estimated, which we thought would play well within our space. We like the signature aesthetic of Memphis, the collectible nature, and though their place at an optical boutique may seem unusual to some, they seem at home here amongst our conceptual and sometimes outlandish eyewear.
While there are so many special design elements, but the stained glass windowed wall is especially interesting.
The inspiration for our feature wall is an infamous church designed by Le Corbusier called Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp in the south of France. This is an unconventional church, where the beautiful stained glass windows are set deep within a thick wall creating a tunnel-effect. The light illuminates these long passages and makes for a breathtaking scene within the sanctuary.
Our purpose was to experiment with the light in our store, crafting a relaxing and introspective mood. The details and color of this feature wall adds warmth and modernity to our gallery-like space.
What is your hope that customers get from the design in your shop?
Our intent is to welcome our clients by offering a pleasurable and memorable shopping experience. The layout of our space offers room for patrons to wander and peruse the displays, and primarily is designed for our shoppers to sit. This experience, where clients are comfortable and rested, is calming and allows our opticians to do the work of finding that next pair of glasses or sunglasses. An extra seating area also allows companions to relax while others shop, enjoying the space around them. Each design feature, including the room’s diffused scent, a complimentary espresso, the fresh cut flowers, are all small details that add pleasure and comfort during one’s visit.
Every brand and product is so unique and special in store, tell us about a few.
We carry 12 different optical brands in our shop. Each is an independent company, with a passionate vision for unique styling and quality craftsmanship. We strive to carry collections that are not easily found elsewhere, all handmade from various countries like Japan, France, Italy, and Belgium. Some of our favorites: Anne & Valentin (France), Theo Eyewear (Belgium), Masahiro Maruyama (Japan) and Jacques Marie Mage (Japan/Italy).
Any standouts from the non-eyewear selection?
Besides eyewear, our lifestyle shop carries a small assortment of rotating feature accessories and lifestyle products. We are inspired by brands with a strong passion and inspiration in their work. For instance, Meo Fusciuni is a niche line of fragrances who we happened upon via a friend, and fell in love with their perfumes and their story. Another brand, Isaac Reina, was discovered while Rama was exploring Paris. He was immediately wooed by the beautiful quality of these simple yet sophisticated leather designs, and the quaint shop in the Marais where he found them.
We also just launched a new collection of leather goods by a young brand called Nasire. They’re a crew of impassioned designers from Switzerland, who were moved to start their brand of leather travel accessories after extensively exploring Morocco. We are proud to currently be the exclusive retailers of Nasire within the United States.
What’s next for the Atelier?
In the summer months, we plan on adding a few new services to our boutique. We are working on adding an optometrist to our staff, in order to provide full optical services. As far as product, new releases of eyewear are arriving at all times, including some exciting new sunglass styles that we have our sights set on. Finally, we plan to join with businesses in the area to create more events for our block and promote a sense of community in the neighborhood.