“Treating people fairly, being grateful for their business and never taking for granted that they came back to Moscot,” said Harvey Moscot, chief executive officer of his family’s eyewear brand, recalling fondly words of wisdom from his grandfather Sol Moscot, who taught him the business.
It was Sol’s father, Hyman Moscot, the family’s patriarch, who immigrated to the U.S. and started the business from humble beginnings, selling reading glasses from a push cart. Eventually Hyman opened the brand’s first store on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side, a neighborhood that generations later the family still mines for inspiration for their privately owned eyewear business.
As consumers continue to evolve, viewing eyewear as a fashion accessory not just a medical device, and with a market dominated by large conglomerates and direct-to-consumer start-ups, the Moscots have maintained their business at their own steady pace. The brand that was favored by Andy Warhol and Truman Capote now has a global presence with stores worldwide, select wholesale accounts and its own e-commerce site.
“We always put product at the top of our list,” explained Zack Moscot, the brand’s chief design officer, and Harvey’s son and the fifth generation to be a part of the business. “We aim to make the product as great as it can be with highest quality while keeping the price point fair.” Retail prices start just under $300.
It’s Zack who has been charged with ushering the brand into its second century, overseeing the house’s two ranges, the “Originals” collection, an ever-evolving offering “based on the heritage an archive of the brand” with styles they have sold since its beginnings, and the “Spirit” collection, which “takes on the same DNA but designs with new colorways and updated materials,” he said.
“We have always offered frames in a variety of sizes, sometimes three to four varieties, which traces back to our history in optical, but because we have larger sizes, they ended up serving even better as sunglasses. But the origin goes back to our intention to have a proper fit and our deep knowledge of optics.” The brand doesn’t have a distinction between their sun and optical collections, with all frames doing double duty, preferring to have the customer decide what type of lenses they want to put in.
“We also see them as unisex,” Zack added. “We focus on the glasses and then you decide whatever fits your style.”
“We want our stores to be an experience and one-stop shop,” said Harvey, a trained optometrist, of their brick-and-mortar locations where they offer eye exams along with their eyewear. The brand has four boutiques in New York, two in Asia: in Seoul and Tokyo, and recently expanded their European footprint with a store in Paris, in addition to stores in London and Rome. Fifty percent of sales come from their European stores with the other 50 percent spread between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Optical is still their strongest category making up 65 percent of sales with sunglasses taking up the rest.
“It’s really intriguing for us, as a New York City brand, to take our story to other lands,” Zack commented. While the executives wouldn’t disclose their next retail chapter, they hinted that new stores are being considered both domestically and in Europe for 2019.
Again moving things at their pace, they prefer to keep their wholesale distribution tight, so that can control their message. “We aim to show the brand in a selective mix of retailers around the world, both optical and fashion,” Zack explained. Dover Street Market, Barney’s New York and Mr Porter are a few of the brands key accounts.
“We do the same thing digitally, only moscot.com and a few online select e-tailers,” he said.
“I’ve said no a lot,” Harvey explained. “People thought I was crazy, but this is the strategy we feel strongly about. The worst thing is to search a brand and see it on google at a mix of prices.”
The Moscots took the brand into the digital age early, launching e-commerce in 2008 with a recent redesign and now consider the site a “digital flagship.”
“Even though we are an old retailer, we come steeped in customer service,” Zack said. “The whole omni retailer approach, and thinking digitally, it only enhances our vision.”
Another avenue to tell their story is obviously social media, but the family does things differently there, too, preferring to not engage in the influencer peddling seen by many of its contemporaries in the market.
“Our rule, we don’t use influencers or paid sponsorships,” Zack commented, adding, “it’s just not something we are into or aligns with our brand. We get hit up all the time for frames, and we like to partner with people but we have to think ‘Is this person a customer or a creative person that aligns with the brand?’ We don’t go out seeking.”
“If Instagram goes away, will this person have a job,” said Harvey, when speaking on the types of people — downtown artists and creatives — that they prefer to work with and who inspire them.
As the brand moves forward the executives see “the juxtaposition of digital and the old world as really interesting, but we want to continue to protect our brand and tell our story.”
“We don’t take immediate sprints to see gains,” Zack commented. “We’ve been in business over 100 years, we take things slow and steady, and do things right.”