Find Your Perfect Eyewear

The Optical Gallery – From Tradition To Trendsetting

In our new category The Opticians Guidance | Learn from the best, we regularly present top opticians who are successful with their concepts. They do this with an outstanding in-store shopping experience and always with an innovative digital approach that inspires their potential customers online for their own business. Click here to check out the best opticians in the world.

This time we present none other than The Optical Gallery in Twickenham, London. We’re introducing Nicos Antoniades, owner of the store. Alongside his brothers, Antonios and Marios, he’s transformed their family’s optician business into a trendy eyewear hub. With a deep passion for eyewear and inspired by Nicos’s background in music, they’ve created a space where glasses are more than just vision tools. Through immersive events, diverse collections, and a strong online presence, The Optical Gallery is reshaping how people view eyewear. Learn how they balance functionality and fashion, and discover their plans for future growth. Join us as we explore their journey from traditional opticians to eyewear innovators.

The Optical Gallery

16 King Steet, Twickenham, TW1 3SN
+44 20 8892 2800

Hi Nicos, thanks for doing this interview with us. You really have a unique company history. You’re actually running the business with your two brothers and you’ve taken over from your parents in 2015. Please tell us more!

My name is Nicos, and together with my brothers, Antonios and Marios, we steer the ship of The Optical Gallery. Our family’s roots in optics stretch back to 1996, with two practices that our parents nurtured in Twickenham and a partnership Chessington with a great man called Clive, who, to this day, is the senior lab tech.

Back in those days, The Optical Gallery was a quintessential family-run UK optician. From the tender age of about 12, my brothers and I were woven into the fabric of the business. For a while, however, I stepped away from the family business. My fascination with the burgeoning UK urban music scene led me down a different path. Nights were spent in the pulsating heart of London underground music events, radio stations, and studio sessions. This passion evolved into a self-taught journey in videography, PR, and eventually managing artist campaigns for notable names like Ministry of Sound and Atlantic Records.

Meanwhile, the Chessington practice flourished under my brothers’ care, but Twickenham was on a downward spiral. Recognizing my success outside the family business, my father extended an olive branch, inviting me back to inject new vigor into The Optical Gallery. The return was a wake-up call. The business landscape had shifted dramatically. Our traditional approach was no longer working – new ideas were needed.

Do you still remember where you found new inspiration for the store?

Yes. It was in Venice that the lightbulb moment happened. A visit to ‘Boudoir Venice’, an optician’s shop unlike any other I’d seen in the UK, revealed a new perspective on eyewear. The warm, artistic ambiance and the personalized styling service from the owner Alessandro who to this day I thank and keep in touch with, reshaped my understanding of what an optician’s practice could be. The experience was eye-opening, showing me that eyewear could be more than just a medical necessity; it could be a statement.

Tell us more about the concept of the store.

Twickenham is what we call our flagship gallery. As I mentioned, we designed it as an art gallery for eyewear. The interior is minimalist, like a blank canvas, and we have carefully chosen artistic features such as our head and hand chairs. On one wall are 5 large black custom-made portrait frames. Inside each are 3 small glass shelves that display only 6 pieces of eyewear per frame. The adjacent wall has individual frame shelves artistically displayed and 4 black podiums on which stand pop art head busts displaying individual eyewear. Only a minimal number of frames are displayed to showcase their beauty and craftsmanship. The dispensing area consists of two bar-style tables and stools, and in the custom pedestals are our curated frame tray collections, ready to style and delight our clients. A lot of people have mistaken us for an art gallery and we look and operate like one.

What kind of an area is Twickenham?

Twickenham is a great area, although many have told us to move our concept more centrally, but we believe Twickenham is a solid name in the community. It is known for rugby and major events, as well as having a beautiful surrounding area where many enjoy good food, coffee and still many bespoke independent long-standing businesses. Many of these businesses have customers who travel from far and wide. The Optical Gallery is no exception.

Optical stores are in a special niche in between functionality and fashion. How do you balance the two?

Navigating the balance between clinical precision and aesthetic judgment is critical. A misstep in medical assessment can undermine trust, while a fashion faux pas can undermine confidence. The art is in harmonizing these elements to ensure a seamless journey for the client from start to finish. Our mission goes beyond mere service; we aim to create an experience, to inspire a sense of excitement and discovery in our clients.

You recently compared buying eyeglasses to picking a pair of trainers – why the analogy?

My brothers and I have a deep passion for eyewear, much like a connoisseur appreciates fine art. For us, eyewear is more than just a visual aid; it’s a fashion statement that adapts to different outfits, seasons and occasions. This perspective, while common in Europe, is still gaining ground in the UK, where eyewear is often seen as merely a corrective tool or, worse, a symbol of aging – both rather negative connotations. Think about the excitement of shopping for new shoes; people often look for shoes that will complement a particular outfit or suit a particular occasion – that’s what eyewear should inspire.

Have you noticed any differences in how older and younger customers approach selecting eyewear?

We serve a diverse clientele that spans multiple generations. Our more mature customers often gravitate toward eyewear with vibrant hues, perhaps reflecting their extensive experience with eyewear over the years. Conversely, our younger visitors tend to favor frames with a vintage flair, opting for classic designs that give their style a distinctive, somewhat eclectic edge.

What does an eyewear brand have to have in order to be on your shelf?

Selecting eyewear brands for The Optical Gallery is a meticulous process. We prioritize depth over breadth in our collections, choosing to fully explore a brand’s range rather than skimming the surface of many. This approach stems from a desire for organization and meaningful representation of each brand, avoiding the clutter of a scattered few of many. After all, with standard shapes like round, square and rimless readily available in every collection, our focus is on what sets a brand apart – its unique story and identity. Our basic criterion is passion.

With the increasing importance of digital platforms, how do you use your online channels to complement your brick-and-mortar store?

Leveraging social media has been a game changer for The Optical Gallery, thanks in part to my background in the music industry. I’ve brought with me skills that allow us to not only showcase our ethos, but also educate our audience through platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. This approach has effectively turned our local showcase into a global one, attracting visitors from all over the world, particularly those on holiday from abroad. Given Twickenham’s convenient access to London, it makes perfect sense to use these platforms to highlight our unique offerings and expertise.

Nicos, thank you for this interview.