Off the Rack: Lunetiers Delambre, a Spectacular Parisian Optical Shop
Shop window displays have always intrigued me, but, in particular, I look most closely at the windows of optical shops. The display of eye glasses can be tricky and the solutions often entertaining. While a pair of eye glasses comes most to life with a pair of eyes and a face, without that context you must employ other means to draw attention. Minus the human component, eyeglasses become collapsed, abstract objects with great potential for interesting compositions. Since the design of glasses follows fashion, the motivation for a stylish display is even higher.
There seems to be three types of eyeglass displays. Some opticians employ mannequin heads; I think this is not the usual presentation because their form is bulky and hinders the number of spectacles that can be arrayed. Other stores use props—beach balls and drift wood come to mind as ones I have seen used.
Prop windows can be handled like art installations. My friend, artist Robert Warner, for a time used his talents on window displays. He made collages, such as these, for the windows of the opticians, Morgenthal-Frederics.
The third way is window displays filled with racks of glasses. These can be very straightforward and practical, and seem the most popular approach. This mode of display usually does not deserve a second look. But, then there are superlative examples such as Lunetiers Delambre in the Marais district of Paris. Theirs is wonderful because it emphasizes both the sculptural and architectural. It uses intersecting tiers of sophisticated racks at one window and inside, panels facing the street windows that hold the different styles of eyeglasses.
It is the skillful architectural framework of the shop and the arrangement of glasses on the tiers and wall display visible through the window that instantly grabs you.
The success of the design is made all the better in the context of the 17th-century street upon which it is located. There are imposing stone walls with private courtyards behind them and elegant apartment buildings with pedimented windows and wrought-iron balconies across the street (see them reflected in the shop’s glass.) While old and new always makes for an interesting contrast, here it is emphasized because the buildings are so ancient and weathered—a perfect example of ancient and modern.