10 questions: Akram Husseini, KLAR, Germany

Akram Husseini – owner of the independent eyewear boutique Klar in Darmstadt, Germany – is an old friend at Eyestylist, as one of the first premium independent opticians we first featured in January 2012. We caught up with him on Zoom this month to find our what has been happening in the last few years….

1. The last time we featured your store was in 2012!  What are the biggest changes you made over the years? Yes, things have changed a lot! Of course, after the Pandemic we are seeing a different mindset and different viewpoints. I am seeing people are definitely more progressive this year in choosing frames, and honestly the more progressive shapes are selling really well. The frames we are selling incredibly well include Lazare Studio. I know Alexander very well and in this collection there are some excellent shapes and the quality is great – the understatement in terms of the aesthetic has a lot of good points. And when I was thinking about your questions it gave me to think about what I have and what I really like, which is really a good idea. Still one of my absolute favourites for our store is Ahlem. I was their first customer in Germany and that was really nice. We gradually grew this collection until it was our number one, and everything Ahlem was doing in terms of developing the style was real sexiness. It worked so well, and still her glasses continue to have this feeling, it’s not just some kind of “bling-bling”! Ahlem has something great and it’s lasting. When you start with a brand and then you see them evolve this is really so interesting to see…and it’s quite a similar path to us here…..

2. How have you bounced back after the Pandemic and have you needed to change things in any particular areas after this strange few years? The biggest change over the years has been that I started alone back then (in 2012), and now we are a team of five. This is really good, having different characters to work with our customers – everyone has a different style if you like and I like and appreciate that a lot. Of course, we had a lot problems like everyone during the Pandemic, but we are on track again and working well. I think as we are authentic in everything we do, we have earned a lot of trust amongst the community as specialists in what we do.

More recently we have also changed another interesting thing. We have started to make appointments for people to pick their glasses up. Its strange to me to give time to the customer to choose a frame, but not set aside an appointment for them when they come back to collect the frame. They appreciate that we are now doing that.

Above: the team at Klar in Darmstadt

Current interior at Klar: refreshed in striking white and a hint of bold colour on walls and surfaces

3. What is your favourite feature of the store design in 2023 and why? Originally the store felt like a living room, when we first opened. But gradually with more people – customers and employees – the space felt too small. As I didn’t want to move locations, I made some changes, I took out some of the sofas. We’ve also added the Kvadrat acoustic panel on the wall to ensure the sound in the store is completely clear.

I’ve also taken more space for the workshop and added a space which is used by the team – to do all the orders but also to relax in as there is a kitchen and balcony. We can also use this area for private appointments if we need to and other events or parties.

4. And the frame selection, same or new and re-mixed? Yes, I have changed things a lot actually. There are so many really nice brands on the market now, that you really must change something sometimes! I have some collections I had on the first day like Garrett Leight, and I would not change something like that, for me it’s fundamental. More recently I added Jacques Marie Mage and of course Lazare Studio. I have also taken Thierry Lasry for sunglasses. We work very well now with Cutler and Gross as well. This year, we have also taken on Pontet from France. We have had some brands for a long time, MYKITA, Oscar Magnusson, Eyevan and so on. For accessories, we like the Japanese label Diffuser Tokyo.

5. What are your best experiences this year so far?  I’m going to be a Dad again in June. Quite exciting! I also should mention opti because I always go there with some friends and we go with some producers and sales reps to the Austrian Alps afterwards. This is a traditional event that we’ve been doing for 10 years now! It’s a fun and inspiring mix of people who go along.

6. How much is personality a part of your work? Yes, I think it is one of the most important things for us. We are always looking for a perfect “match” for our customers when it comes to eyewear. It is always important to have well educated employees, but it is important to  have personality and taste when working with these brands. You must be sensitive to fashion. You must understand other aesthetics to be able to work with certain products. We have many different characters coming into the shop and it is our job to match the frame with the character, as creatively as we can! As a team we know we need to have a real appetite or “fire” for good eyewear!

7. Do you think travel (to optical fairs) improves your experience as a specialist retailer? Yes, 100%! I am very enthusiastic about shows and I am also encouraging my employees that it is essential to go. Why? When you have a show as a buyer I can have an incredible fast overview of everything, especially the collections I am not working with. By looking at one after another at the shows, you can get a very direct feeling about everything for yourself. I also like the networking, and because I go to these events I can meet a lot of people again – it’s interesting. You can talk a lot, exchange ideas, get some recommendations and so on. I am also still involved with the German Collective group – we have done some interesting collaborations and we always try to meet up. All if this is important for the shop at the end of the day. It’s inspiring, and always great the meet the designers behind the brands we sell in person again.

Interior at Klar pre the updates: the aesthetic has always been minimal and refined in style

8. What are your plans this summer? We are always open through the summer. And it’s often the time of the year where we might hold specific events or parties for example.

9. Will we see you at SILMO? Yes for sure – it’s very important for me. I love Paris and I also love the people there. It’s also the perfect date for us in terms of business – it’s the perfect date for me to select my brands at this point in the year and make some orders.

10. What has been your best experience of working with an eyewear designer this year and why? Please name one and why was that a stand out experience? Well I’ve worked with Garrett Leight for 12 years. He founded his brand not a long time before I opened my shop. I would really say thank you to this lovely crazy guy because I asked him for an order before he had started any distribution in Germany or Europe. I texted him and we talked, and then he sent me some first frames for the shop without any payment even, it was really very cool. For me really I’d say it was a lucky moment – I think I was customer 24 or something worldwide – and we have now a friendship – and of course since then his company has changed a lot and grown. When I meet Garrett at the shows I remember that we were starting out at the same time, and it’s always a nice moment of nostalgia.

Klar, Schulstrasse 4, 64283 Darmstadt, Germany www.klar-augenoptik.de Read the first interview with Akram on Eyestylist.com at www.eyestylist.com/2012/01/klar-darmstadt-germany/