NEW YORK—Pierce Voorthuis of Georgetown Optician began to conceptualize what a new type of online shopping experience for luxury eyewear might look like months before the pandemic began. Despite the immediate challenges of reacting to and thriving during the pandemic, in the interim of then and now Georgetown became a part of LOH (Luxury Optical Holdings) and subsequently, LOH was acquired by the New Look Vision Group.

But the initial “project,” combined with other concepts for an online presence being developed at LOH took on new importance and finally late last year, Visionist made its initial bow as a website geared to help people “Change the way you see the world,” an environment and presentation encompassing a range of luxury optical ideas and distinctive brands.

In an interview with Tim Mayhew, CEO of LOH, Voorthuis told VM, “We asked, how can we develop an e-commerce site that really takes both the magic of independent eyewear that we all love and wear and really respect and combine that with the expertise of the optician? That’s something that most online players, until now, have glossed over. We really believe the optician is integral, to ensure that eyewear is delivered properly and expertly to our customers. Marrying those together with a component of service is what we wanted to do.”

Mayhew added, “You know, necessity is the mother of invention. During 2020 when we were in the most crippling phase of the pandemic, we recognized we had an obligation to continue to service our customers. But there was a bit of a quandary, because our doors were not open. Our people managed to continue to serve our clients remotely but we realized that we needed to give them better tools to do that.

“At its heart, Visionist just has core principles and a value system and deep commitment to support independent designers. A second element of our thinking was to think of developing a more diverse company, not only in terms of ethnicity but in terms of the diverse needs of customers, too.

“That’s why we were attracted to a partnership with Georgetown Optician because they personify independence. They are a leader. And, their social media and online presence are really elegant. We had a creative team and agency working on our ideas but we were lucky that Pierce could bring his knowledge of independent eyewear to a modern e-commerce site.”

LOH’s Morgenthal Frederics and the Robert Marc and Lunor brands do have a presence on the Visionist site, Mayhew noted, adding, “But we are also super excited to be partners with several brands among the finest eyewear in the world right now. We want to be able to showcase the collections well enough so that a customer can buy online and feel comfortable buying online.

“But we also recognize that brick and mortar is truly important and will never, never disappear. And we really want to support our brick-and-mortar partners. And so that’s where we’ve created functionality, where people can find the balance and brands which our partner stores feature via Visionist. A Shop Local locator provides those.”

Flexibility and choice are key elements of the investments being made in Visionist and in the types of services that customers can interact with on the site—or in person. Said Voorthuis, “Our goal is to create a more omnichannel experience where the stores are tied into the experience even if some customers solely want to order and do everything online. We want Visionist to be self-sufficient but we also want to create a link with our partner stores throughout the country where we are confident our clients can also avail themselves of in-person services if they want.”

He added, “Investments are being made in amazing systems behind the scenes, a proprietary and new enterprise software system. And we’re very proud of our state of the art finishing lab at the Visionist offices in New York.”