She Wears Vintage

Speaking to Brussels-based vintage dealer Mimi Lem

When it comes to Brussels-based Mimi Lem, “She Wears Vintage” is not just an apt title for this story. It’s also the story of her life, since a large part of her everyday experience revolves around her specialty online eyewear store I-wearvintage.com which she has been running for three years now. Mimi, who goes by the legal name Myriam Lemaire, also lives right down the street from the humungous sculpture known as Atomium – a reminder that the tiny things in life can make a great difference, like rare vintage eyewear. Large on style, and focused on the details – welcome to the world of Mimi Lem.

Mimi, thanks for having us over at your home base in Brussels. How did you initially develop a taste for vintage eyewear?  

The first contact was when my father used to take me to the Brussels flea market.

So your parents have had an influence on you?

Sure. I grew up in a family of artists and designers, so my passion for beautiful things began at an early age. I also loved to hunt for treasures in flea markets all around the world. I began to sell clothes and accessories.

Later on you decided to focus on vintage eyewear only. What was the motivation?

In 2006 I bought a lot of CAZAL glasses without even knowing what treasures I scored there. I only realized the potential afterward and decided to focus on eyewear because it’s cool, luxurious and lightweight. In 2014 I built up my own online-store.

As a vintage dealer, you’re highly dependent on a great network for obtaining these treasures. Would you mind to share these sources with us?

I am like a private detective, so my sources are a secret (laughs).

Got it. The whole process from building your stock to selling frames online must be more complex than one might imagine. Can you provide a rough outline to outsiders?  

Once I find my treasures, I have to clean and adjust them. Then I move on to taking pictures, and performing all the measurements. Then I have to come up with the most precise description possible, because people on the web can’t see the glasses directly.

What is your philosophy? 

My products have to be from what I call new old stock, and from quality brands with special designs that are in line with current trends.

What do you mean by „new old stock“?

Vintage, never been worn, mint condition.

So there are no used glasses in your line-up?

No.

In which markets do you sell your frames? All over the world?  

I sell and ship worldwide. My European and American customers are well balanced. I sell also quite many to Japan and Australia.

Please describe your typical client? And why do they buy vintage frames?

My customers are mostly men. Some are collectors or just people with taste, who want to be unique and like savoir faire from the past.

Is the vintage segment still growing?

More and more. It goes all the way from very connoisseur customers to touching the masses now. When I began to sell vintage, people didn’t know the meaning. But it is also a problem, because the term “vintage” is often used incorrectly.

So let’s clear up the misunderstanding – where does vintage start and where does it end?

There’s no starting point. It can be very old, but it needs to be at least 20 years old.

Do you run a sunglasses business only or also offer optical frames?

I offer sunglasses and optical eyeglasses with demo lenses changeable into prescription.

Which brands are performing the best in your store?

CAZAL, ZEISS, RAY BAN, PERSOL, MIKLI, SILHOUETTE.

How do potential clients learn about your offering? How do you promote yourself?

I hand out flyers and business cards. I sell also on vintage markets and online platforms such as Etsy, so potential clients can discover my website through it.

As a vintage addict you must be seeing a crazy amount of old frames all day. What are your favorite brands?

I like SILHOUETTE a lot, and ZEISS and METZLER. But also Italian couture brands such as ARMANI or MISSONI.

And do you have your “one best frame ever”?

I’m more a hunter and seller than a collector. “The cobbler’s children go barefoot” (laughs).

Happy hunting, Mimi.  

More Info: www.i-wearvintage.com

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