Atelier Mira, Next Level in Brooklyn
Atelier Mira draws those seeking a unique look with a fresh new take on the eyewear retail model.
STORY BY Andrea Carneiro
For the owners of Atelier Mira, seeing isn’t always believing — even when it comes to eyewear.
Atelier Mira, BrooklyN, NY
Owners: Rama and Assia Valentin
Area: 1,600 square feet
Top Brands: Anne & Valentin, Theo, Jacques Marie Mage, Masahiro Maruyama and Ahlem
Though the Brooklyn-based shop has gone above and beyond to create a unique retail experience, the one thing that shoppers won’t initially see an abundance of here are, surprisingly, the hard-to-find frames that they’ve become known for. “Some people put everything on display,” says store manager Erin Rae. “We generally specialize in personal styling and fitting. Our business goal is to give people a truly memorable and personalized experience.”
Atelier Mira owners Rama and Assia Valentin have found that means showing off just a taste of the 12 luxury lines that reside within the shop, from the owners’ family label, Toulouse-based Anne & Valentin, to La Petite Lunette Rouge, which names each frame after a famous visionary, and the Canadian, handcrafted Rapp Eyewear. When it comes to choosing lines, “We like to have a direct connection with the creators, and get to know ... their vision,” says Rama.
Executing this unique approach to sourcing frames can be a daunting task (Rae says communication can take days and involve translators), but it has served Atelier Mira well in its Williamsburg location. “People come to us because they want a signature look,” she says. “In New York there are a lot of glasses and a lot of people; it’s easy to see the same styles. We really strive to find brands that are different and that have a story behind them.”
Another draw is the shop’s willingness to step outside the confines of a traditional eyewear boutique. Though they do employ two opticians and place a heavy focus on frames, the Valentins set out to create somewhat of a concept shop, adding items such as cult fragrance line Meo Fusciuni, leather goods from Dajczman and, more recently, pieces from famed 1980s Italian design firm The Memphis Group. Overall, that dedication to, and interest in, design serves to hone Atelier Mira’s overall aesthetic and create the feel of a curated space. “The store itself intrigues people to enter,” says Rama, who also notes they were careful to add plenty of seating and warm wood tones to make shoppers feel welcome. “The décor does a lot to draw in those who were not otherwise looking for glasses. Whether it’s the large-scale artwork, the architecture of our feature wall, or the brightly colored Memphis furniture, we curate a lot of eye-candy to bring people in.”
And speaking of that wall … Inspired by Le Corbusier’s Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France, the Valentins’ one-of-a-kind, ceiling-height display mixes asymmetrical tunneling windows with stained glass and LED to create what Rae describes as an “awe inspiring” effect. “Our boutique illuminated at night draws many window shoppers, and when the displays are eye-catching, we find these people later return to see what else we have,” says Assia.
The Valentins’ vision for the shop took shape a few years ago, when the couple, who had spent two decades on the wholesale side representing Anne & Valentin and Theo Eyewear of Belgium, decided to set up a shop near their Brooklyn home. Though they saw a void in the market for a space where “slow shopping” was encouraged (think browsing, music and espresso), making the leap to retail last year was still an adjustment. “We were used to having the opticians as the ones to please, now seeing it from the other side, we are on the front lines fitting people with our products,” says Assia. “It’s great to get to experience this one-on-one side of the business; we love getting to see how our frames are received, and the reactions of our patrons.”
The shop’s visual appeal has also helped them up their social media presence, allowing the — as Rae says — “highly photographable” frames to do the talking. “A picture can say a lot and can be more sharable than just telling someone about the store,” she says of their Instagram presence. “We invite our clients to tag us in their images ... They’re our best advertising.”
PHOTO GALLERY (5 IMAGES)
5 Cool Things About Atelier Mira
1. Name dropping. Atelier Mira carries only independent brands, preferring to know the designs, craftspeople and stories behind the frames they sell.
2. Origin story. The store’s unique moniker was conceived by the Valentins while enjoying Mirabelle, a traditional spirit drink from France made of small plums. The couple combined “mira,” meaning “look” in Spanish, with “atelier,” a French word meaning “workshop.”
3. Location, location. The shop’s space, in hip Williamsburg, draws a surprising number of tourists, says manager Rae, adding that they are excited to discover the store’s unique wares and are inspired by the shops and restaurants that inhabit the area.
4. Thrill of the hunt. Early adopting trend-hunters often seek out the shop as well, as they are the only store in the United States to carry many of their lines.
5. On display. You won’t find any frame boards at Atelier Mira; most of the shop’s stock is tucked away in custom-made drawers and specific samples are brought out after a consultation between client and stylist.