twelvesixtynine was built with the classics: hard work and passion. When I reflect on the journey we took to get here, I can see how developing a love for eyewear went hand in hand with the success of our store. Six years ago, my brother and business partner Lorenzo, came to me with the idea of acquiring an eyewear store in the heart of Coconut Grove – one of the most iconic neighborhoods in Miami. My lack of experience in the eyewear industry made for an eagerness typically reserved for the uninformed and it didn’t take long for me to get on board. After all, my expertise was in retail and Lorenzo knew a good opportunity when he saw one.
It wasn’t as simple as it seemed, though. The shop we acquired, formerly known as “Time Square,” was 90% watches and 10% eyewear. Not to mention that the two brands they carried were Rayban and Oakley, both part of the wicked Luxottica conglomerate. Despite our unfortunate inventory, we knew where we wanted to go with this store. With a little bit of wit and a lot of optimism, Lorenzo and I moved all the dated inventory we had and reinvested in products that we were passionate about. One of our first eyewear brands was Italia Independent, a brand popularized in the mid-2010s and led by Lapo Elkann. They offered an eclectic, flashy, product that guaranteed to grab everyone’s attention. Elkann’s exuberant personality and love for cars instilled confidence in us. He was a kindred spirit of sorts, and we knew in the back of our minds that it was a Miami fitting brand. I can still vividly recall when we first displayed Italia Independent in our store, we had a wall jammed packed with styles in every neon color you could think of.
Our next big brand was illesteva. They were the new kids on the block but you wouldn’t know it to see them. They were confident, cocky even, and they opened our eyes to the possibilities of curating independent eyewear brands. I still recall it was a challenging brand to acquire; Alessandra Ambrosio was one of their ambassadors and they were growing quickly. It took several meetings and a healthy dose of persuasion, but Lorenzo convinced them to sell to our Miami and Casa de Campo stores. Even though they weren’t our first indy brand, they were the brand that made us understand just how niche this industry could be. We thought brands like Tom Ford, Gucci, and Chrome Hearts were the only ones who could rule this world. We were happy to know how wrong we were about that.
After kicking off our new venture, the move was clear: curate independent brands. The first step in that was to visit Vision Expo East, commonly referred to as VEE. It was our first time at the expo and our first business trip together. Looking back, that trip was the revelation that steered us to where we find ourselves today. VEE was a place you could find inspiration at every turn and it was where we discovered some of our favorite brands. I can clearly remember stumbling onto Jacques Marie Mage. At that point, JMM still had a certain innocence, it hadn’t received the cult following it has today. I could see Jerome Mage’s vision as clearly as if it were my own, but many failed to pick it up. I took a few colleagues to check them out, but little was said and less was understood. The nonconformity of JMM would turn out to be the main reason for their success. To many, the brand seemed too far out. To us, it became the benchmark.
As the years went by, brands came and went at twelvesixtynine. A curation process that polished our eyes and nurtured the soul. We came to understand eyewear and its handmade industry. We were no longer chasing brands because of popularity. Instead, we chased the ones that hid in plain sight. When an object can withstand the test of time, it becomes all the more valuable. That’s how we approach our inventory. Our clients are looking for the wearability that comes with lasting quality and design. We look for brands with a strong character. One that outlives trends and fashion fads.
Today, twelvesixtynine is doing exactly what it set out to do. We combine our knowledge of the industry with the same sincerity we look for in our brands. Customers can count on personalized service when they shop with us. Our store facilitates the buying process by taking the guesswork out for our clients. We worry about providing them with well crafted, timeless, designs so they can find the pair that best represents them. We understand the importance of finding the right frames. Hell, we’ve spent our careers looking for the best.