Go Back In Time With Fabulous Fanny’s : The Mecca For Vintage Frames
Don’t You Remember The Times?-Michael Jackson
Half Vintage Frames, Half Museum
I’m a die hard fan of vintage frames, I go religiously to garage sales,flea markets, online and literally anywhere possible to find that gem that nobody thought about.
When I need to decide which pair to take, first I try my best to stay away from the «everybody got it» temptation because fashion to me represents uniqueness through everything and my frames are not an exception to this rule.
So after going everywhere in Montreal to find that «one in a million» to add in my vintage frames collection, I figured I would probably find my treasure in New York City aka the Big Apple. I did my research and one name kept coming up : Fabulous Fanny’s where we also met Mr Throwback, another vintage guru.—Mr Throwback’s interview here
This was on my second business trip to New York so at this point doing interviews doesn’t stress me that much anymore (sure it still does). After a few email exchanges with this vintage frames expert that goes by the name of Ken, I took a cab from Brooklyn to East Village and see it for myself and bring it back to ya’ll.
Check Out Our «Store Tour» Of The Mecca Of Vintage Frames
I’ve seen a lot of vintage frames retailers but none like this one because it kept one factor that lot of them are not considering : authenticity. As the melodies of Frank Sinatra were floating in the air, I hate to admit it but my jaw dropped as soon as I came in because I felt like I was taking back in time as I was looking at frames that dated back to the 1800’s!(yes I was allowed to touch them). Ken and I sat for what became the most instructive and powerful conversation I ever had about vintage frames. Here is what has transpired from this amazing Q&A :
Would You Like To introduce Yourself?
I’m Ken Finneran the owner of Fabulous Fanny’s 335 E 9th St, New York. Our phone number is 212-533-0637. We’re open 7 days a week from noon to eight.
Who Is The Fabulous Fanny That Inspired The Name?
Fabulous Fanny was not a person. Fabulous Fanny was a bird, was a scarlet macaw. My former business partner’s bird and she is around somewhere, but he had to get rid of her, she was too noisy. But that’s who the store is named after; Her name was Fanny.
What First Interested You In Eyewear?
Well I had two opticians that were a big influence as a child. My one optician was a good friend, well both of them were actually good friends of mine. One of them was the first person to bring soft contact lenses to the United States. He just died recently, Robert Morrison. He used to have an office in Harrisburg and also had an office in New York. He outfitted all the stars, because at the time he was the only one that had soft contacts. My other optician was Sidney Rubinstein and Merle, his wife, wore just the most outrageous frames and she made me absolutely adore what she looked like all the time.
They were two big influences and essentially the way the company got started was one of my former business partners and I used to do the flea market in New York and we used to sell miscellaneous merchandise. At one point we went up to his mother who was an antiques dealer in New Hampshire and she was in the hospital and she said “before you go back”, she said, “stop out at the house” she said,“pick up these frames I have out there”, she said “I got them from someone”.
I had no idea who that was, but my business partner knew who it was. She said “I don’t know what to do with them” and he said “Mom, why don’t you throw that shit out, nobody wants that stuff.” I said to him “Good idea Stan, let’s take ‘em and see what we can do with them.” As soon as we got out of the room: “Why did you say that to her? She’s not feeling well.” I said “We’ll take them, we’ll throw them away. We’ll tell her they all sold, she’s not asking for any money, she’ll be happy.” Well turns out we got to the market that weekend and we had a lot of space at the end of the booth and I said to Stan “What do you want to put there?” He said “Why don’t we put some of those frames Mom gave us out?” Put out a card table, put the frames out and that was the start of it.
That was about 20 some odd years ago. At that time, all we had were old frames from the twenties and thirties and it was about several months later we had local optician that came to visit us. He said “you really don’t know what you’re doing, do you?” and we said “What do you mean?” He said “all those frames that you’re selling are solid gold frames. They have more of a scrap value than what you’re selling ‘em for.” So he took us sort of under his wing and his father and grandfather were both opticians so he taught us alot about optical.
Straight Out Of The Vintage Frames’ Vault
What Do You Look For When Searching For pieces?
They have to be unused. I will buy metal frames that have been used, because what I do is I put them in a sonic cleaner, I clean them up so they look new. But in any plastic frame, I won’t buy anything that’s been used before. All my frames are either from an optician that never sold them or from a manufacturer that had old stock.
What Do You Think About Big Brands, Like Versace, All The Big Logos?
I think it’s a bunch of shit, that people have to plaster their names all over frames. I remember the days when people used to be able to identify a frame by a certain detail on the frame. Like Persol’s have a certain hinge they do. We used to do in our line is a special trim on it, that would identify it. I just have having a big name plastered on a frame. I don’t like. I wish people wouldn’t do it. I try not to carry frames that are like that. There are some that I have, I have some Christian Dior’s from back in the day when Christian Dior wrote their name in little letters on the inside of it. Now they have that huge “CD” on the side of it. I don’t like it. I think it takes away from the look of the frame of itself.
#-I have about 70,000 frames in a warehouse right now.
You Have Glasses Dating Back To The Seventeen Hundreds? How Did You Get Your Hands On Those? There Must Be A Story There.
Search, search, search. We used to go to every antique shop, I can’t tell you. All our days off. When we first did the flea market Saturdays and Sundays. Almost, every day of the week we were either cleaning glasses or searching for glasses. There was a lot of work envolved in that. Now that I have the shop I don’T have time to search anymore. I have about 70,000 frames in a warehouse right now.
Did You Go Outside Of New York To Get Them?
We went to Europe and everywhere.
Where Did You Go?
France, Germany, Turkey, Italy, lots and lots of countries. Amsterdam. Switzerland. Gentleman from Croatia was here once and sold us some frames. A lot of travel.
How Can Our Readers Purchase Your Products?
By coming in store, only. I don’t do any websites sales. You can’t sell frames on the internet. People have to actually try them on. See what they look like, what they feel like. I don’t want to sell somebody a frame and end up have them return it three times because it doesn’t fit or they don’t like it. I want them to come in the store, put a frame on and say “Wow I really like this.”
#-I think it’s a bunch of shit, that people have to plaster their names all over frames
How Can Our Readers Purchase Your Products?
By coming in store, only. I don’t do any websites sales. You can’t sell frames on the internet. People have to actually try them on. See what they look like, what they feel like. I don’t want to sell somebody a frame and end up have them return it three times because it doesn’t fit or they don’t like it. I want them to come in the store, put a frame on and say “Wow I really like this.” I don’t want to have it back and forth and back forth and back and forth.
I Felt Like I Was In The Paradise Of Vintage Frames
What’s Next For Fabulous Fanny’s?
Well, we’re soon to have a new line. I have some friends, we’re all going into business and we’re going to do a line of eyewear called Fabulous Fannies, and we’re going to wholesale it. Let me see what my notes are on that. We intend to spread the news beyond the 9th street New York store, which already has an international reputation for eclectic vintage eyewear by launching a limited vintage collection of unique styles from the 1900s. We’re doing different materials. We’re doing it in rolled gold metal, bamboo, wood, buffalo horn and colors such as transparent, translucent, Tokyo tort and we have one frame that we’re going to do that is an original ivory from a one million year old mastodon horn it has ivory temples on it. We expect to launch our first collection in Asia for January 2017, followed by US and the spring.
They are probably our number one sales people. We have been interviewed for at least twenty magazines from Asia. From what I understand, I’ve never been there, all the hipsters know Fabulous Fanny’s in Asia.
People Come All The Way From Asia?
We have clients from all over the world. I have people that when they come in on their plane, they come here before they even go to their hotel.
What About The Opportunity To Have Your Frames In Movies?
Glasses are actually bought by the props person for movies. I would have thought it was a costume person, but not at all it’s always props. We had one person that really started buying from us years ago, Sandy Hamilton. He got us into all Wes Anderson’s movies, he did a Spiderman movie. He’s done a lot of movies. Since then, we do all the broadway shows now. We do theatres all over the country from California to east of here. I guess, because we have the resources, we have more frames and more of a selection. We’ve done almost all of Wes Anderson’s movies. We do Scorsese’s movies. We do Deniro’s movies. Just lots and lots of movies
You’ve Been In Business So Long, You’ve Seen The Ups And Downs, The Internet. What Are Your Keys To Success?
Selling good product, being fair. I try to make a decent profit, but I don’t want to cheat people. I have people that I sell to at retail, that turn around and resell the product and they’re tripling what I sell it for. I don’t want to cheat someone with a price they shouldn’t have to pay the price for. Most of my prices are based on what I paid for.
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