Selima Salaun: 20-20, Measurements for All the Senses

Miguel Sirgado

Selima Salaun is a luxury eyewear designer that combines high fashion and functionality because "choosing and wearing glasses should be a sensual experience".

When we talk about luxury eyewear and sunglasses, the name of the Franco-Algerian designer Selima Salaun must always be included. Since 1993, her shop in New York’s SoHo district has been a mandatory destination for everyone who believes that eyeglasses are a reflection of their personalities or moods.

“My designs try to capture the French soul and style, with a touch of the urban cynicism of New York,” explains Salaun, who has assimilated the essence of the Big Apple as her own and for whom freedom and spirituality are two of life’s greatest gifts.

The career of this elegant bohemian began in Paris with Royal Optique; a company specialized in glasses made to order, a primarily European luxury, and whose clientele included famous members of the international jet set and diplomats. “I did everything,” she explains. “I cut lenses, conducted eye exams, sold the frames. I worked with real tortoise shell designs [something that today is forbidden by international law] and gold, to create unique frames”.

Selima Salaun, by Iké Udé, 2012.
Selima Salaun, by Iké Udé, 2012.

“I realized that if I was going to stay in this business for a long time, I would have to ‘focus’ more seriously.” With that in mind, Salaun completed her studies in optometry and graduated in all areas related to the business of good eyesight. ”That’s me: If I do something, I do it well.”

Once in New York, she worked with famed designer Alain Mikli, from whom she learned the tricks of industrial design and marketing. “I think my glasses combine high fashion with functionality, and the results survive passing fads”. That is the reason why, since she opened her first boutique in New York, her fans number in the thousands and her client list includes Hollywood celebrities such as Ryan Goslin, Madonna and Bono, as well as architects and personalities from diverse disciplines. Currently she has retail spaces in Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo, and her glasses are sold in the most exclusive and avant-garde boutiques worldwide. “The truth is I could have done what others do with my business: open an optical shop like any other, sell what sells worldwide. But then, why would anyone be interested in me?” says Salaun.

In fact, her stores are not only different from the competition but also from each other. For example, the SoHo location, in the very popular corner of Broome and Wooster, is decorated with antiques and classic furniture, and her line of sunglasses and eyeglasses is sold along with others from very select designers, as well as her own hat collection. “My clients like to feel comfortable and safe. They are reassured by the fact that the store has been here forever but without looking old “says the designer.

In her second New York store, located on Bond Street, in the area of NoLiTa, her line shares the floor with a very well curated selection of vintage clothing and accessories. The same space is harmoniously shared with Suit 303, the legendary April Barton hair salon, previously located at the Chelsea Hotel, one of the most revered institutions of bohemian New York chic, a place where you can get a haircut and also enjoy a delicious Italian espresso. “I truly believe that choosing and wearing eyeglasses should be a sensual experience,” explains Salaun. “That is why I like to create spaces that appeal to all the senses.”

Selima Salaun, who naturally exudes good taste, says her inspiration comes from observation. “I do not like sitting in an office all day. I go out and interact with people, see what they are wearing. I’ve always liked styling and helping others to choose their clothing, perfumes and accessories. That is why I also like to make people look better with glasses”.

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