In the basement of Tokyo’s iconic Goro’s Building (the orange townhouse in Harajuku where shoppers queue for hours to buy Goro Takahashi’s silver feather jewellery) is Solakzade, a subterranean mini-temple of vintagespectacles and sunglasses. There is little street signage and no window display to signal what lies within, but in-the-know visitors will find an eclectic and ever-changing inventory of classic and cutting-edge styles – all in mint condition.
Launched in this space in 2012 by brothers Ryo and Tatsuya Okamoto, Solakzade counts Kanye West and Kate Moss among its stylish clientele. “Our customers tend to be vintage lovers who might fall for rare, perfectly restored frames from the 1820s made of coin silver or solid gold [£400-£2,285] yet still look fresh and cool,” says Tatsuya. A journey through the 20th century could uncover original 1940s Ray-Ban aviators (from £320); 1960s Christian Diorsunglasses (from £330) featuring butterflies and the Eiffel Tower; and 1990s Jean-Paul Gaultier designs (about £400) with rose-tinted lenses.
The intimate space’s Italian 1970s chandeliers and antique mirrors cast a dusky glow over glass vitrines showcasing punky finds from cult avant-garde Japanese brand Matsuda (from about £300), alongside oversized futuristic styles from the 1960s by Philippe Chevalier (from £800), the under-the-radar designer of Lanvin’s eyewear line, and Pierre Cardin (from £330). There’s a vintage American Optical picture on the wall, while original Piaget and Cartier boutique display items – “we love vintage everything…” – adorn the marble countertops. And for very special customers a secret mirrored door leads to an equally enveloping VIP room.
Platinum-plated aviators (from £760) by Cartier – “best known for its fine jewellery but also one of the greatest brands in eyewear history,” says Tatsuya – sit comfortably beside Solakzade’s small selection of antique gold jewellery, displayed in drawers. Here the focus is on signet rings (19th-century English lapis ring, £2,500) and French tank rings (second world war-era gold and natural-cut diamond ring, price on request), but equally seductive are the bracelets, including a 1940s French gold tank bracelet, £4,600.
While Tatsuya handles buying trips across the globe, it’s Ryo who specialises in restoration, customisation and the brand’s bespoke eyewear. His limited edition and one-off creations include 18ct gold frames (made to order, from £5,000) embellished with Nepalese and Indian emeralds, sapphires and diamonds. Solakzade also handles everything from eye tests and prescription lenses to frame adjustments in its adjacent atelier, where the brothers delight in spending time with each customer – often 30 minutes or more – discussing what they call “cosmetic perspective”. “We like to think of our glasses as wearable works of art, and there is something to suit every face shape and skin tone,” says Tatsuya. “Those bold black Mad Men styles, for example, are simply too overpowering for some.” None of the frames are flea-market finds. “Making glasses is a beautiful craft and the condition of every pair is crucial. It’s what sets us apart.”