Vancouver’s first concept optical boutique invites guests to an entirely new shopping experience. Founder Eric Dickstein set his sights on the perfect spot in historic Gastown to execute his vision – his shop would illuminate the process of creating quality, sophisticated eyewear. Durant Sessions officially opened its doors on May 14th, and since then, visitors have flocked to the shop to admire the intelligently executed interior that utilizes primarily reclaimed fir in its varying, beautiful forms.
Lead architect Jay Barker took aesthetic cues from the neighbourhood, paired them with the lifestyle, message and feel that Dickstein aimed for, and created a clean yet rustic design with an exposed framing system to gild the staggering space. He explains, “The space itself benefits from this very high ceiling, which we were able to play with. As for the material, the palate, we borrowed very much from the neighbourhood. We used reclaimed fir which is ubiquitous in this area. In this store, we’ve displayed a few different phases of reclaimed fir. We have it raw, as seen in the table. We have it refinished in its bright natural form on the floor. We have it stained throughout the framing system.” Durant Sessions’ emphasis on tradition and process is perfectly echoed in the architecture of the store, down to its most minute details. Barker further notes, “We were careful to make it seem like either the store has been here forever or we carefully built around what had existed.”
No False Illusions
The level of transparency that Durant Sessions operates on begins with its design. Guests are immediately greeted by a long table in the middle of the shop, open cases, floor-to-ceiling windows, and exposed beams. An antique safe-door is left wide open, emphasizing the shop’s open-concept aesthetic. Dickstein explains, “The whole idea behind Durant Sessions is the discoverability of the process. Things don’t just happen – things are exposed.” Customers are given the option to customize their frames and are welcome to witness the entire process in-house, including the cutting and tinting of lenses, matting of frames, personalizing bridges and nosepads.
The store’s name pays homage to a series of music recordings in LA between Dickstein and a mentor from the optical industry. Durant Sessions distinguishes itself in the industry by illuminating the processes involved, making it their mission to deliver an educational experience along with exceptional eyewear.
The Process of Illumination
The brainchild of a group of optical experts with a combined 20 years of experience in the industry, Durant Sessions aims to nurture guests’ appreciation of the intricacies of every frame. The shop’s team of opticians and consultants invite each customer to learn more about their selection – from the brands’ origins, to the premium materials being used, to the signature details from each designer.
Similarly, Barker handpicked talented colleagues Emily Lehnen, Alex Carghill and Michael Johnson to assist in the proper execution of the store’s design. Commenting on their collaboration, he confides, “I’m lucky to have a really great team, so, it was a very stress free process. I trained as an architect but I have also worked as a cabinet maker and am fortunate to know some very talented and young cabinet makers and builders in Vancouver. They brought experience and skills to my designs that just took it to the next level.”
In an age of disposable fashion, Durant Sessions celebrates beautiful, functional and enduring timepieces. Their consensus is that the other end of the spectrum – fast fashion – is a dirty process. Owner Eric Dickstein elaborates, “There’s something wrong with making things look as great as they can for the least amount of money. That’s almost like a facade – like a fake building front. It’s almost like Las Vegas and the buildings look like castles, but if you knock on them, they’re hollow.” Dickstein and company urge consumers to pull back from empty purchases and recognize the careful details and personal touches that go into a handmade versus mass-produced piece. The same principles, care and attention were applied to the conception and formation of the store.
Design: Jay Barker Studio