Life Skills

L’Ingénieur Chevallier MTO eyewear – and good opticians in general – Permanent Style

  • Jun 14, 2024
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L’Ingénieur Chevallier MTO eyewear – and good opticians in general – Permanent Style

While in Paris at the beginning of the year, I was told about an eyewear brand that was offering something that sits between ready-to-wear and bespoke. That’s a theme, by the way, that I think we’ll be returning to  in the second half of this year. 

The brand was L’Ingénieur Chevallier, an old name that had been bought by bespoke opticians Maison Bonnet, with the idea of turning it into something different. Their concept was to create an optician that was more accessible (and cheaper, and quicker) than their bespoke, but which pushed the craftsmanship of ready-made as far as it could go. 

So, the frames come in multiple sizes rather than just one, making it easier to fit one to someone’s face. The staff that fit the glasses are trained by Maison Bonnet (by general reputation, and in my experience, one of the best bespoke houses in the world). And the frames can all be extensively adjusted on site – not just heating and bending the arms, but shaving down and reshaping the nose pad, for example. 

Most of this doesn’t happen anywhere else. Ready-made frames don’t usually come in several different sizes, and adjustments are usually limited to that arm-bending. It pushes the service into a space above normal RTW. 

It’s also I think a good excuse to talk about the reduced quality of eyewear service generally, which often gets ignored. 

A lot of people wear glasses that don’t fit them. The bend in the arm – that should fit snugly around the ear – is too far forward and they’re constantly pushing them up their nose. Or the nose fit is poor, and so they have welts underneath. 

How the frame suits someone’s face is more subtle, but still basics are frequently wrong – like being able to see their eyes without the frame getting in the way. It’s an interesting area and one we should cover more at some stage; the kind of thing I feel a PS reader values understanding. 

A reason behind some of these issues, I think, is the growth of cheaper eyewear companies. Some of these are online, others have stores, but even in stores the staff often aren’t that well trained. I’ve been into a few with friends where the staff offered no advice at all, except how to spread the payments.

There are still some very good opticians around, and in fact that’s another area we should cover, because these tend to be single, local shops rather than brands, and so get less attention. A list of good ones in major cities (perhaps with the assistance of readers) could be useful. 

My visit to the Pyramides branch of L’Ingénieur Chevallier brought a lot of these thoughts bubbling up, because the service was good. 

The manager was happy to not just give advice, but explain how and why it made sense, which I know PS geeks would love. For example, the point that every face has a natural frame that eyewear plays around, formed by the eyebrows, the side of the nose, the top of the cheekbone and the outer edge of the eye socket. 

And there’s a discussion we’re all familiar with of what compliments the shape of one’s face – familiar because of how we talk about it in relation to shirt collars, hats or other menswear that sits around the face. 

I have a long and oval face, for example, with precious few sharp angles. It’s why a more angled beard suits me, and it’s why I should avoid ‘smiling’ frames – those with a very rounded outside-bottom corner. 

I tried out the service at L’Ingénieur Chevallier, and after much to-and-fro, ended up getting the ‘Louis’ sunglasses pictured above. 

There is, of course, much more leeway with sunglasses than optical frames, because the eyes are hidden. But some frames still suit people more or less – most frames are too wide for my relatively narrow face, for example. 

This is particularly relevant because the trend in sunglasses is for what the manager called ‘main player’ frames – large, bold shapes intended to make an impact. This trend can lead to people getting oversized frames that overpower their face. 

The glasses cost €790, which is a lot, but a lot less than Bonnet’s bespoke. Given these came from a range designed by Bonnet, were made in the same workshop, and were fitted and adjusted by someone trained by them, you can see it as good value. 

Or at least I did, given that the whole conversation started because I went into Bonnet ready to splurge on a pair of bespoke sunglasses to follow my bespoke opticals from a few years ago. 

A few other things that will likely appeal to PS readers are that L’Ingénieur Chevallier only carries frames they can adjust in-house and repair in-house. So they can also adjust the wire-framed designs from Gernot Lindner, and they don’t use materials like wood that can’t be adjusted. 

They also don’t carry frames with logos on them, and they emphasise that repairs and maintenance are part of the value of the frames – so they should be brought back into the store regularly. 

Unfortunately, at the moment L’Ingénieur Chevallier only has stores in Paris (two of them). But if anyone is in the city I recommend visiting, and perhaps there will be another somewhere soon. 

I haven’t covered anything of the history of L’Ingénieur Chevallier, by the way, which is a weird one. Making frames for Louis XV, and installing a giant thermometre outside the shop to showcase the value of scientific progress, for example. More on that here

For other pieces on eyewear over the years, including my various forays into bespoke, see the ‘Glasses and Jewellery’ section of PS 

You can also read a little about my journey with eyewear, and what Frank Bonnet thought of my slightly eclectic collection. That was a fun piece. 

The shirt pictured is a PS Oxford in pink/white stripe

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by menshealthfits.
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