How many optometrists does it take to change a light bulb? One. Or two? One. Or two? One. Or … And that’s why comedy and optometry rarely mix.

It’s not hard to see why: as someone who got his first pair of glasses in primary school, I know first-hand that getting your eyes tested rates fairly low on the enjoyment scale. They didn’t make optometrists like Bailey Nelson when I was a kid.

First things first: Bailey Nelson at the State Buildings doesn’t look like your garden-variety optometrist. A well-lit bunker of exposed brick, cool tunes and understated fixtures, the group’s first West Australian boutique could easily pass for a small bar. When company founders Peter Winkle and Nick Perry began selling sunglasses at the Bondi markets in 2012, it’s safe to assume expanding into Perth’s flashiest inner-city development four years later wasn’t on the agenda, never mind having 30-plus stores around the world. Seems they were onto something when they decided – to paraphrase the poster hanging in the Perth store – making fantastic eyewear frames available at reasonable prices would be their calling.

Designing and manufacturing its own glasses and sunglasses is one of the keys to keeping costs in check. Of the 400 available designs (or “skews” as they’re known in industry-speak), the Perth store carries 330, and the group’s head designer Ryan Nix adds a couple of different styles each month. As someone who hasn’t always put a premium on eyewear aesthetics, being able to pick up good-looking, fashionable frames at a similar price to entry-level spectacles elsewhere – glasses start at around $125 for a prescription pair – is an appealing prospect. In-house optometrists are on-hand for eye-testing.

So what’s popular in eyewear circles? While Perth store manager Josh Fraser says vintage designs remain evergreen – think Lennon-style sunnies and angular mahogany frames circa the ’60s – today’s designs tend to lean low-key.

“Five years ago, that chunky, Dita [von Teese]-style Italian look, with hugely thick frames, was really popular,” says Fraser. “It became cool to wear kooky, out-there frames. Now it’s moving away from thickness to thin, both in the thinness of the frame as well as the metal. You don’t see a lot of colour and patterns.”

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One thing Perth will be seeing more of, however, is Bailey Nelson. Expansion is already on the cards with the group making plans to open more stores before year’s end.

Bailey Nelson
Shop 5B, State Buildings, Corner St Georges Terrace and Barrack Street, Perth (entrance via Barrack Street)
(08) 9202 1263

Mon to Thu 9am–5.30pm
Fri 9am–6pm
Sat 10am–4.30pm
Sun 11am–4pm