The Interview: Zack Moscot of MOSCOT Eyewear 2016
Heralding from New York City, MOSCOT eyewear launched as a family business – offering eyewear for their local neighbourhood. Building a strong aesthetic and developing iconic frames they moved into sunglasses and in so doing, grew an allegiance of customers.
Still a family business, we got the opportunity to speak with Zack Moscot, chief designer and 5th generation Moscot who joined the business part-time in 2006 after graduating in Industrial & Product Design at the University of Michigan and full-time in 2013. With an archive spanning a large variety of classic frames that now get reworked every so often in new colourways, the designs have a timeless appeal that keep capturing the imagination of so many.
MOSCOT is now a 101 year-old family business and with its fourth and fifth generation. Talk us through the key stages of the brand and its development?
My great, great grandfather Hyman Moscot emigrated from Eastern Europe via Ellis Island in 1899 and began selling ready-made eyeglasses from a pushcart on Orchard Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He opened the first MOSCOT brick-and-mortar shop in 1925 at 94 Rivington Street, just around the corner from where he sold glasses. Since Hyman, every generation of Moscot – my great grandfather Sol, my grandfather Joel, and my father Harvey, has joined the family business. Hyman, Sol, and Joel were Opticians, and my father is an Optometrist. As the fifth generation Moscot to join the family business, I did so not as an eyecare provider, but as a product designer with aspirations to continue my family’s legacy through eyewear design. I believe each generation had to find a way to propel MOSCOT forward, while maintaining our core attributes. The development of the MOSCOT brand is predicated on the following: our downtown New York City roots, our focus on quality eyewear, our exemplary customer service, and our memorable in-shop experience. Each generation of MOSCOT has kept the history and roots of the brand close, never forgetting who we are, where we come from, and what we stand for.
MOSCOT is still very much considered a local optical store in New York but has a global reach with shops in Korea, Japan and now Europe. How important is it to maintain that personable, ‘local’ personality?
While we are now a global fashion brand, we still very much consider ourselves to be a neighbourhood optical shop. Maintaining our personable, ‘local’ personality is fundamental to who we are and what we stand for, and sets us apart from other eyewear companies. The Moscot generations that came before me prided themselves on their ability to provide a special, memorable experience to neighbours and members of the community. We’ve always been the neighbourhood shop where locals returned again and again, year after year, for eye exams and glasses.. We have MOSCOT family members that have been with us for over 40 years, and we work tirelessly to ensure the MOSCOT customer experience is memorable.. We know our customers by name, and we treat them like family. When our customers walk into one of our shops, we want them to feel like they are coming home!
What’s your relationship like with your customer (male customer)? Is there an aspect of getting to know them first before selecting frames?
Absolutely! Before we even begin selecting frame styles we first like to understand each customer’s personality, style, and lifestyle. Based on their tastes, personal style, facial structure, colouring, and even the type of work they do, we can evaluate what frame styles would be most appropriate. We’re extremely detailed with fit and lenses, ensuring the final pair(s) of frames selected is best suited for their daily lifestyle and needs.
Would you be able to summarise what the MOSCOT appeal is from the family perspective and perhaps then the business?
Actually, from a customer perspective, I think both of these elements — family and business — are one in the same.. As a five-generation family business, everything we do is from the heart. From the warm, familial feelings our shops convey, to the packaging of our frames, to the quality of our eyewear, we incorporate family into every aspect of our business, and our fans feel this innate connection. As we grow, we remain humble and modest in everything we do, which contributes to the pride our customers feel wearing our frames. We’re very grateful for this.
When did MOSCOT start selling its own frames and what was the motivation behind this, what did MOSCOT want to achieve?
MOSCOT was born in the Lower East Side over a century ago. Back in the day, the Lower East Side was a hot bed for creative types: artists, musicians, poets, architects, writers, and more. These independent, creative thinkers were also our customers, who were naturally drawn to the frame styles we carried. We continued to sell many of these classic styles over the decades. Eventually we made the decision to tell our story around the country and the world, and began our wholesale distribution.
Talk us through the design process and specifically about the quality of the frames and materials used.
We have two core collections: The MOSCOT/Originals and The MOSCOT/Spirit Collections. Both collections are available as ophthalmic eyewear and sunglasses, and are made of the same high quality materials.
The MOSCOT/Originals Collection are based on styles from our family archives, and retain the authentic period details, and traditional hardware of the original frame styles, including the scratch-resistant mineral glass sun lenses in old-school colors, Calibar Green (bottle green), Cosmitan Brown, and G15.
The MOSCOT/Spirit Collection includes newly-designed shapes and styles, that depart from the family archives, but feature the brand’s distinct color palette, and the same quality materials, period details, and real hardware, as The MOSCOT Originals.
All MOSCOT Eyewear features clean, simple silhouettes that are diverse in shape and style — what we call classiconic™ – the conflation of classic and iconic. We design each frame in our NYC design studio approximately two years before its launch. The design process includes drawing, prototyping with both 3D prints and acetate samples, and material testing in our NYC labs. All MOSCOT Eyewear is handmade with approximately 125 steps using the highest quality materials, including real hardware, and hinges that are riveted through the temple and frame fronts to ensure the sturdiest construction possible. We carefully inspect every frame for quality control in our New York City labs, before dispensing eyewear to customers worldwide.
As a generalisation, people seem to like wearing older, classic looking frames, would you say this is true and also an important part of the business to fulfill?
In general, I think many people enjoy their everyday staples — core products that never really go “in” or “out” of style but rather stand the test of time – like a white t-shirt, a pair of blue jeans, or wingtip shoes. That’s why we say MOSCOT frames are classiconic. They go with any outfit, fit any face, and work for any occasion, today, and in 50 or even 100 years from now.
How do you develop new designs? Are they always based on heritage?
MOSCOT has a very distinct design identity. Our MOSCOT Originals Collection is based on our heritage, but The MOSCOT Spirit Collection features new designs, that are unmistakably MOSCOT in their construction and DNA. We pay close attention to the language of our design to ensure everything we produce speaks and breathes the aesthetic and emotional attributes of the MOSCOT brand. We stay true to whom we are and we do not stray from our core palette of classic shapes, colors, and quality materials.
How would you describe MOSCOT in the 1930s and then again today?
CLASSICONIC! (A word we trademarked last year!)
How would you sell MOSCOT to a person that had never heard of the brand and was looking for new frames – I.e. if they wandered in off the street?
First, I would explain who and what MOSCOT is and the depth of our family heritage. Our story is authentic, and unique, and something many people connect with. We’re not something that was fabricated around a conference room table. As a family business, we are truly proud of our generations of hard work and dedication to eyewear and eyecare over the last 100-plus years.
What stands MOSCOT out of the crowd from other eyewear brands?
MOSCOT is steeped in history of eyewear, downtown New York City, and our customers. Having been around for over 100 years, we consider ourselves eyewear experts and like to think we know what we’re doing! Eyewear is in our blood. We live it, breathe it, sleep it, and wear it! We love it! Our heritage in the industry, passion for product, and expertise in retail gives us an edge and better understanding of our customers and loyal fans.
So you have just landed in Europe with the shop on Beak Street, in London’s Soho. What next? Any plans to go into mainland Europe?
We always say it has taken us 100 years just to get to where we are now, so we have a “slow and steady” approach to keep the brand within tight reins. Yes, we do have aspirations to open more retail shops worldwide, as it is one of the best ways to provide the essence of our downtown New York City brand, including the MOSCOT customer experience, directly to consumers.
What is your favourite pair of MOSCOT frames – pick one sun and one optical?
It’s hard to say. That’s like asking one to choose their favourite child! In terms of universal appeal, The LEMTOSH fits nearly all face shapes and suits both males and females. It is available as ophthalmic eyewear and sunglasses, in a variety of colourways.
Who would you say, in the public eye, has worn a pair of MOSCOT’s the best?
Johnny Depp. He wore our frames in a film many years ago and has worn them ever since. I have to say, he has A LOT of fans.
Who are your style icons?
Personally, style takes on several different meanings for me. I consider my father, Dr. Harvey Moscot, a style icon, for his ability to interact with others, especially in a retail setting. The Moscot generations before me, including my grandfather Joel and my great grandfather Sol, who I was named after, were masterful with customers in understanding their needs and desires. The Moscot style of communication is one that I have long admired, and one that I continuously hone in my own way.
What’s the relationship between MOSCOT and music?
The Moscot family has an innate passion for music, and that includes many of those who work with us. Nearly eight years ago, my father Harvey began playing his guitar in the shop, and from there, we now host MOSCOT Music events live at our MOSCOT Gallery & Music Space in downtown NYC.
In a neighbourhood historically renowned for live music, The MOSCOT Gallery & Music Space provides a rare opportunity for fans and musicians to interact in an intimate setting.