America's Finest: Dr. York Optical

Mexico City import catches the eyes of la-la land

Los Angeles is a world capital of creative statement eyewear. The city is home to some of the most soughtafter labels and the most celebrated established opticians and style boutiques, including l.a. eyeworks, Oliver Peoples and young designer Garrett Leight.

The latest addition to the list of spectacular eyewear havens is Dr. York Optical, a dream project by creative Mexican couple José Castellanos and Elena Orestano. After opening their debut Dr. York optical store in a leafy neighborhood in central Mexico City, bringing brands to their country that had not previously been available there, they were inspired to look further afield to create a new and different type of speciality boutique. Their aim was to create a space dedicated to independent eyewear labels and the up-and-coming designers who had not yet arrived on the West Coast. Castellanos is a third-generation optician whose family first started in optics in 1947; his wife, Elena, trained in communications and public relations, has an eye for exciting lesserknown frame designs, and a taste for high-quality handmade artisanal eyewear.

“As an optician,” Orestano says, “opening a store in Los Angeles is really a dream come true. This city is one of the most iconic for eyewear. The brands that have started out here, like l.a. eyeworks, are now known around the world for their innovations and creative style. They have changed the way designers make frames and contributed to how customers understand eyewear today. This city has a fascinating relationship with eyewear as a fashion piece or style accessory. It is one of the most engaging and vibrant cities ever.”

Specializing in the hippest, lesser-known independent labels — which include Res/Rei, BlueMagicEye and Caroline Abram — brought up some interesting considerations for the couple as they began their journey to create the shop. “L.A. is a challenge, so we wanted to bring something fresh to the mix,” Orestano says. “We have selected brands that have been around for a couple of years or maybe a bit more. Some of them might still be defining their style, and others already know where they want to take their concept. We’ve found an amazing variety of small irresistible labels from Europe and beyond. If there is one city where you can bring all of this together, and present it to the people, it’s here!”

In harmony with the creative labels sold there, the shop’s interior is cool and similar to a gallery space. Designed by DCPP architects, the concept was to make the store feel like an extension of the public space outside, one in which customers would immediately feel welcome.

“We are in a West Hollywood neighborhood, known for its hip independent stores and designers, coffee shops and restaurants,” Castellanos explains. “For us, it is similar to Colonia Roma in our home city, and so it just felt natural to us to find ourselves here.”

A floor-to-ceiling glass window sets the scene from the sidewalk. Inside, an informal feel is created with artifacts, posters and other artwork, while a slick display continuing the full length of one wall entices customers to see what's on offer. The wall has an unusual open backdrop made from tubes, creating a cool and unique stage for the store’s selection of one-of-a-kind frames and sunglasses.

With high-quality eyewear by designers from across Europe and further afield, prices generally range from $300 to $450, with a few higher-priced designs by luxury labels like Finest Seven. The couple have decided on a unique exclusivity policy — they’ll sell only one pair of each type of frames in Los Angeles. Which means that if you buy a frame style from them, you won’t end up seeing someone else wearing the same frame at a red-carpet event the next week.

Asked to comment on future plans, Orestano explains a desire to create a Dr. York Spectacles collection of their own. “We believe that our work in L.A. and the buzzing atmosphere and DNA of the city will give us the knowledge we need to launch Dr. York Spectacles; it’s a fantastic prospect we are both very excited about.”

Dr. York Optical is located at 8302 W. 3rd St. (at South Sweetzer Avenue); (310) 857-6797.

L.A. is a challenge, so we wanted to bring something fresh to the mix.”
Elena Orestano

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE! The focus is on providing a friendly, easy-going yet thoroughly professional service and building strong relationships with customers and vendors. Says Orestano: “It’s about the people; the people behind the frames, the ones who design and produce them; the people who wear them; and the people who sell them. For us it’s all about that.”

2 A SPECIAL COMPANION Orestano’s golden retriever, Renzo is a familiar face by now at Dr. York, L.A. The couple’s running companion when they are in the city, Renzo is often spotted having a siesta outside the store, or in the afternoon, greeting customers and enjoying lots of attention.

3THE SOUND OF MUSIC Music is a part of the individual character of Dr. York. “The music we play at the store is the music we like to listen to,” Orestano says. “Our playlists vary, from Mexican Cafe Tacuba to Chromatics. From Cat Power to The Strokes. Dylan and Bob Marley. Independent? Definitely!”

4VINTAGE VIBE As well as their new collections, the owners of Dr. York offer clients a carefully curated collection of vintage eyewear. They have collected these designs and cleaned and restored them themselves over the years. The collection includes rare Ray- Bans and Persols as well as numerous other special designs from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

5AN EYE FOR DETAIL Orestano loves to make the store special and this is clear in every detail. From the scented candles to the glass cake stands showcasing special designs, to the chair outside on the sidewalk, there is a pleasantly informal atmosphere, complementing the hip modern feel of the shop design. Stylish and cohesive, the architect-designed interior at Dr. York also features statement shelving, and the overall feel of a gallery or bespoke concept store.


THIS GUY REALLY GETS AROUND / Orestano explains one of the stories from a valued customer that made a big impression: “A guy walked by the L.A. store one Saturday afternoon at around 7 p.m. He told us that in the morning he had been in Mexico City and passed our store there — Dr. York at Col. Roma. He said, ‘We really love you guys!’ That really was something that excited us and a remark we won’t forget!”

Explore more of “America’s Finest” eyecare businesses in each and every issue of INVISION.