Eyewear trends through the eyes of the SR Gopal Rao Family

Ever admired the impeccable style of the characters who star in Mad Men? Do you gasp at how everyone seems

to live in well cut suits, sport beehive hairstyles and wear oh-so-chic glasses? Wished you could channel some of that effortlessly suave 60s style? Well what if we told you that Bangaloreans a few generations ago were equally stylish, thanks in part to SR Gopal Rao, optometrists and stockists of fine eyewear, for decades.

Let’s take a quick walk through trends in eyewear, over the decades, all through the eyes of the family that has run this establishment since the mid-19th century!

From the 1960s to the 1980s, Chandrashekar Manay was at the helm of affairs and he stocked brands like Montex and Elite, that were popular for their shell frames. The Montex Gokiro Shell, with a thin wire rim, was Mr. Manay’s personal all-time favourite - and turns out that these now-vintage frames are a collectors item today. Elite, another classic brand was a much in demand brand back then for it manufactured shell and keymounts (half metal,half shell). Virco Industries made full metal and keymount frames. However, what will probably make you truly nostalgic for the era gone by are the seemingly humble prices...frames then cost anywhere between 15 rupees and a whopping 60 rupees! If we were to step back a couple decades when the founder SR Gopal Rao was himself in charge, from the 40s to the 60s, we would likely find far fewer imported brands on the shelves. A majority of the frames were manufactured right here in India by brands like Asta. Only glass lenses were sold and the choice of materials for frames was restricted to metal and shell. Demi Amber (DA) coloured glasses were in vogue, and so were clip on accessories, unless you could lay your hands on the English, gold frames ‘Altan’.

Fast forward to the 1980s, when Mr. Hemanth Manay took over the reins and ushered in international biggies like Giorgio Armani to the market. Mr Hemanth Manay who still guides the business, has always been passionate about this highly reputable, quality brand. And, not surprisingly, SR Gopal Rao continues to invest heavily in Armani’s collections. The reason for this loyal following is perhaps the classic, timeless appeal of these frames that last generations. SR Gopal Rao seeks to take a leaf out of this legacy brand’s book, as Giorgio Armani launches inspiring campaigns like ‘ Frames of Life’ that put stylish eyewear at the centre of all that we see, wear and do.

Crossing over to this millennium, Uma Manay entered the business in 2004. This decade saw rimless, sleek, barely-there frames become popular. Her tastes coincided with what was popular. Her personal favourite happens to be Silhouette Eyewear, an Austrian brand known to make the lightest and most tough titanium rimless frames. Perhaps she is drawn to the brand because they make hardy, stylish frames that are versatile enough to weather any situation...to go with her multifaceted personality, for Uma wears many hats. She is a fashion designer, amateur golfer, business manager and obviously, a connoisseur of fine eyewear!

Cut to the present, when Meghana Manay became the 6th generation to become part of this iconic family business in 2011. Meghana is a business management graduate and has trained under her father in dispensing optics. And like the rest of her family, she too, displays impeccable taste when it comes to eyewear. She professes a love for the legendary Persol brand. She is also a fan of Maui Jim , who focuses on superior technology and customer service. She is particularly impressed by these brands that have continued to zone in exclusively on eyewear. While their frames and sunglasses cost a pretty penny, she is aware of how much time these manufacturers spend in research before they create a product. Persol for instance, uses only the highest quality acetate to make its frames and has innovate springs which are hidden from view. These iconic brands also spend time training retailers to provide an unmatched level of service to customers. Not surprisingly, their classy appeal endures even with the new generation, embodied by Meghana Manay.

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