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"If eyes truly are the windows to the soul" Interview to Dr. Lili and Eric by Femi

Saying you don’t like jazz to me means you haven't listened to jazz. The genre label means very little on its own. It’s only when you’ve begun exploring the subgenres and stumbling across songs that need to be replayed that you understand that there is jazz for everyone.   

The same can be said for glasses. We’ve helped plenty of people who have never liked how they looked in glasses. They are usually somewhere along with this venn diagram: people who have never had glasses that fit them comfortably, people who have never had glasses that fit them aesthetically, and in the middle you have contact lens wearers. If eyes truly are the windows to the soul then your glasses quite literally frame your physical and metaphysical being. I’m trying blue-blocking lenses on one of my pairs of glasses and an unintended benefit of the slightly warm tint has been the harsh winter greys feeling just a touch less oppressive compared to my other pair. It’s an odd little perk to have.

I spend a few minutes of each workweek looking for Eric’s misplaced glasses. It never takes long as they are usually lounging in the drawers alongside the rest of the Dutil genus. I look forward to those few minutes because it means he’ll be back and find a way to be distracted by a plaque or a hinge or some odd-coloured frame which then prompts a story from his days with Oliver Peoples. 

I knew nothing about eyewear when I started in November. Now, just a few months later, I have this library of insider tales from the optical industry that I have no one to tell. I also have a newfound appreciation for design and craftsmanship that would not have occurred to me without his stories. This appreciation is shared by all the staff and extends far beyond eyewear. While Shareen seems to have every tool that has ever existed and an eclectic list of creative pursuits, Jo and I spent a good month looking for the best cinnamon buns near the two Vancouver stores.

I’m always happy to let Eric step into the conversation when I’m working with clients because his enthusiasm rubs off on people. He suggests frames with care. Passion is contagious.

When asked what the ethos of the Durant Sessions is, Dr. Lili says it’s about putting the people first. She didn’t expand much beyond that which wasn’t particularly helpful for writing this piece however Eric was eager to elaborate. 
“The consumer isn’t being taken seriously and they don’t even know it!” 

Dr. Lili and Eric met by chance sometime after the first DS opened. As a recent graduate, she had been working at a few places where she didn’t feel connected to.

She had spent that cold, dark December exploring every other optometry office and eyeglass store in Gastown in search of somewhere that could become home to her own brand of optometry. Durant Sessions was one of the final stops. Dr. Lili’s memory of her first time walking into the store is one shared by many of the people who have been in and out of that large red door:

“The store felt warm,” She said lightly.
“It looked the same as it does today,” Eric chimed in. “Just dirtier.”

 

She walked into a conversation about scented lens cleaning sprays that has continued to this day. I’m sure it was just the other day Shareen and Dr. Lili were formulating a plan for entering the portal hidden upstairs to find the rose-scented essence for a new batch.

It’s evident to anyone that Dr. Lili brings a very different flavour to optometry. Eric sums this difference up as being less cerebral and science and more creative and exploratory. He is also quick to note her competitive streak. I can neither confirm nor deny any of this--Dr. Errin does my exams--but if there is one thing Durant Sessions can do, it’s let the reviews speak for themselves.

 

 

Walking into the store is the same for everyone. You get into an altercation with the door that is a hair too wide for the door frame. When you finally get it open, you are greeted by the timbre of today’s playlist promptly followed by the ‘hellos’ from the other end of the long table. You take stock of the records on the walls--I got bored one day and now every record on display (in Gastown) has someone wearing glasses. If it’s sunny, your eyes are drawn to the vibrant hues of the Lapimas on the board. Then the door shuts and a wave of heat blasts you from the radiator that we are helplessly at the mercy of. Even before the people, the store has charm. The lighting is warm rather than the clinical white found most elsewhere. The frames are softly illuminated, not spotlit. While it's the products that bring clients in to shop, it is the amalgamation of these little things that keep people coming back. While it’s the service that gets people to purchase here, it’s the persons and personalities delivering that service that keep those conversations going.

In Durant Sessions, Dr. Lili found a home for her distinct brand of optometry unbound by convention for convention’s sake.  Oddly enough, Eric opened the store to escape those same confines within the optical industry. This is why this unlikely pair works. They’ve both experienced and refused paths that seem set in stone. These shared values are what made the progression from working relationships to the genuine partnership they have now so seamless. Their ideas of what Durant Sessions should have never been discordant.

 Eric says Durant Sessions is “your” company--“you” being whoever just asked him if he is the owner. “Yours” meaning the company does not exist without your support. It’s a truth both sincere and corny. I’ll allow myself some poetic license to round off this short history:

Durant Sessions is a collection of stories in the shape of an eyeglass store and optometry clinic.