View from an expert: Kayla Heersink shares favourite moments in NYC

Kayla Heersink, the optician and eyewear aficionado behind the @optical_style account on Instagram – a curated page featuring all things creative in eyewear, visited New York City in March for Vision Expo East and LOFT NYC. During the weekend, she shared with us some personal insights and favourite discoveries among the brands from North America exhibiting at the events. presents a spectacular two-part editorial in collaboration with Kayla, with some exciting insights on what she found during her appointments in the city.  Above: Kayla wears PRESS Eyewear’s Super Bass sunglasses.

1. What was your favourite event/studio visit or showroom viewing this year in NYC?
The CFDA Pride Eyewear Initiative event is really special. In honor of Pride Month, seven CFDA eyewear brands  united to launch the 3rd annual edCFDA Pride Eyewear Initiative. The designers of Blake Kuwahara Eyewear, Christian Roth Eyewear, l.a.Eyeworks, PRESS, Barton Perreira, Selima Optique, and KREWE, will each offer a limited edition sunglass design, with a portion of proceeds collectively benefiting Bring Change to Mind.

edCFDA Collective – PRIDE Limited Edition sunglasses for 2024

Established in 2022, the edCFDA Pride Eyewear Initiative is an annual charitable venture driven by eyewear designers of the CFDA to target and highlight specific needs within the broad spectrum of the LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming community. With donations to LGBTQ+ causes totaling more than $100,000 in its first two years, an expansion from five to seven designers this season bodes well for a record-breaking year in 2024. “While it is the eyewear designers, with the CFDA’s support, who have piloted this outstanding effort, it is also a testament to the optical community – retailers and customers alike – who have embraced the importance of visibility for these causes,” notes Gai Gherardi, co-founder/designer of l.a.Eyeworks.

Proceeds from sales of the 2024 edCFDA Pride Eyewear Initiative will benefit Bring Change to Mind (BC2M), an organization dedicated to ending stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health.

VADA’s colour palette is fresh, youthful and often a little daring

2. At the shows, which were the iconic US brands you loved again for 2024 – and why?
I’m still obsessed with Vada. Designer and creative director Katie Caplener’s work draws from a deep well of ranging references, from ancient art to modern dance, neoclassicism to New Wave, and the obscurest of corners that exist in between. The VADA eyewear line that emerged from Katie’s fine jewelry background strives to create quality pieces, lasting outside of trends. VADA creates heirloom pieces to be cherished across generations.
In my opinion, this small batch eyewear brand has the best photos and storytelling. This year it’s all about Camp Vada, where you can see the influence of Katie’s southern roots. Inspired by action and adventure, Camp VADA builds its fire with an exploration of masculine energies for Collection 5. It’s little yin, big YANG, with three new styles and eight new high-octane colorways. Pitch a tent. Run a trotline. Get high on an Ozark mountain. Cannonball off the boat dock: Camp VADA is calling. A fitted ringer tee and a cigarette behind the bunkhouse. A psychotic sack race toward summertime. An acid-blotted biscuit in the duck blind. Color names like swamp, trout, and pearl snap, are complimented by “I pulled a fish from my ice hole” bumper stickers, and old school Vada trucker hat merch. Vada is somehow always simultaneously fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Like your cool older cousin, Vada knows what’s hot before you do.

TVR True Vintage Revival
ROLF Spectacles
VADA Eyewear: “VADA creates heirloom pieces to be cherished across generations….”

Vada has also recently released two special collaboration pieces with singer Leon Bridges. Channeling Bobby Womack, funkadelic hues, and best-dressed relative nostalgia, EARTHA and LEON are handmade in Japan with 8mm custom acetate and feature 18K gold-plated hardware. These frames feature a custom paisley-patterned core wire exclusive to this collaboration that is extraordinary. It was inspired by a scarf worn by Leon’s grandmother, Eartha.

Leon Bridges + VADA

3. Which are the most interesting emerging home-grown labels you are going to keep your eye on?
I’m really excited about the relaunch of American Optical. It is America’s oldest eyewear company, started in 1833. AO frames are being made in the same factory as State Optical, in Chicago Illinois. American Optical is bringing back the Saratoga, made famous by JFK, in addition to many of their other recognizable classics.

American Optical: an iconic US eyewear brand

The optical nerd in me got really amped seeing frames with 7 barrel hinges. The goal has been not only to bring eyewear manufacturing back to the US, but also to revive the lost vocation of the American Eyewear Artisan. YESSS!! The AO and STATE craftspeople undergo over six months of training before earning that title, working across all 75 steps of the proprietary AO and STATE manufacturing process. The pride that these 65 elite craftspeople exude can be felt in every frame.

Look out for Part 2 of this feature, which is packed with great recommendations – from @opticali_style – coming up soon! Follow @eyestylistmagazine@opticali_style on Instagram for more information about the companies that Kayla visited.