Optometrists don’t make it easy to buy new lenses for a favorite old pair of glasses or shades. Especially shades! Who even does that? Lens replacements through an optometrist can cost more than a new pair altogether, especially when it comes to sunglasses.
A new startup out of Westwood, Calif. called Lensabl is on a mission to keep your favorite frames on your face. Whether the old lenses are damaged, you need a new prescription or you want to switch to a different tint, the company’s site lets you swap out lenses for a direct replacement or something new.
The Lensabl site asks users to select exactly the kind of lenses they want, including prescription, reading or plain lenses and tints, including a range of colors, polarized, transitional and mirrored lenses. After customizing a pair to your liking, you give Lensabl your prescription data through a form on the site, including details like the strength of each eye and pupillary distance. Users can either manually type in the info or upload a copy of a written prescription from their eye doctor if they’re feeling confused.
One you place your order, the startup sends you boxes that you can use to ship in your frames for a lens replacement. You get one box with a prepaid shipping label for each pair. (Lensabl pays for the shipping and handling.) TechCrunch tested the service, ordering a few pairs at once. It took about two weeks for the vintage frames we sent out to come back with custom lenses that feel like the same quality you’d expect from a brick and mortar optometrist.
The company will work with any shape of frames. They can even replace the trippy, colored lenses of Snap Inc.’s Spectacles if you don’t like them. Replacing them with transitional tinted lenses that are clear in low light and dark in the glaring sun could encourage people who wear the video-capturing Spectacles to use them more consistently, taking “snaps” indoors and outside in equal measures.
According to Lensabl co-founders Andy Bilinsky and Mike Rahimzadeh, Lensabl quietly started its service in November 2016. The company is getting some attention in the fashion industry. It is working on partnerships with different brands and retailers in eyewear, on and offline, to allow customers to pick a lens all their own when they buy a new pair.
One early partner of Lensabl’s is ChilliBeans, a brick and mortar retailer of non-prescription sunglasses. ChilliBeans is now using Lensabl to sell frames plus prescription lenses from their stores. The startup’s competition is mainly against national optical retailers like Costco Optical or LensCrafters, for example.
Custom lenses from Lensabl cost from $77 to $397 today. For now the company only sells in the U.S. If your prescription is really complicated, like you need bifocals that have amber transitional lenses and are very thin, it costs a bit more than a straightforward clear prescription lens or non-prescription shades.