Ever see someone with eyeglasses on and the frames make you take notice? Margie Toney was always that girl. She turned her love for fashionable eyewear into a thriving business.
Based in Brooklyn, Style Eyes Optical offers bold, unique frames from independent designers. It specializes in statement eyewear.
“Style is more than just a nice article of clothing or a pair of glasses. Style is a feeling and expression. My job is to find what is right for each person who visits my store or meets with me online," explains Toney. "Style is important because once you find yours, it helps your confidence and your self-esteem! I like bold, funky, and eclectic types of frames. But if you’re not ready to go all-in, we’ll still have something for you that will still pop and fit who you are."
Toney's knack for curating style has attracted a celebrity clientele, such as syndicated TV talk show diva Wendy Williams who has been known to pop on some of Style Eyes Optical eyewear during her show.
“I have developed a great relationship with several celebrities. I call (TV personality) Lloyd Boston my 'godfather.' Through him, I have made glasses for Wendy Williams and legendary actor Billie Dee Williams. I’ve made glasses for Cynthia Erivo, Lena Waithe, Aisha Hinds, Sheryl Lee Ralph. Neal Farinah, Beyoncé’s hairstylist, and celebrity hairstylist Ty Wallace have also been wonderful clients of mine," says Toney. "I also work closely with a group of influencers including Claire Sulmers of 'Fashion Bomb Daily', Rae Holliday, Renea Bluitt, and Ty Alexander."
Her loyal clients often make their way to Brooklyn.
"I opened my store in Flatbush three years ago. We had an anniversary party back in May, and it was a great time to see people come out and support us," says Toney, who was born and raised in Haiti before moving to Brooklyn at age 7.
When she opened her business, she wanted it to be in Brooklyn and bring quality products to an often-neglected community.
"I was raised in Brooklyn, and I wanted to bring a different aesthetic here aside from what they think we like. I’ve owned stores in Manhattan, and I noticed that the merchandise is very different from what is offered in minority neighborhoods," she points out. People of color can’t be put in a box, and I’m here to give them something fresh, eclectic, and different."
Toney didn't randomly jump into the eyewear business. She studied and worked in the industry before branching out on her own.
A Fashion Institute graduate, she has worked in the optical business for more than 20 years.
"I majored in Merchandising and Buying. I was also a Psychology major, which definitely helps to get into the real stuff with my clients. Knowing who they are, helps me find that perfect fit," she offers.
Early on, she also worked at an optical store in Manhattan's financial district.
"I was 19 and impressionable. My boss and his wife were excellent mentors and showed me so much about the optical industry," she remembers. "I had a good foundation and exposure because I wanted to learn and absorb what was going on around me. What stayed with me during that experience was one day I had an elderly Black woman come into the store. She told me she had never seen a Black person as a salesperson in that store. It made such an impression on me, and I wanted to continue that representation."
Even today there are just a few Black Women in the eyewear industry, which caused Toney to face unique challenges.
“It often was uncommon to see a Black woman working in high-end merchandise. Over the years, I have had my fair share of challenges with distributors and other businesses; I’ve even had backlash from clients! Regardless, those who support me and are part of my tribe are here because of the quality and experience. That has no race or gender,” she says.
Despite the challenges, Toney was determined to be a successful entrepreneur.
“Coming from a Haitian family, I was always encouraged to earn my own money for my independence. If there are things you want, you find your way. The optical business was actually a part-time job that bloomed into the career I have today. It’s a wonderful accident,” she says.
Now she's ready to expand her brand.
“I am actually working on my own frame line. I’m hoping to launch it by the end of this year," she says. "I also plan on getting more exposure to daytime television, with Q&As, and presentations of different brands. I want to share my vision.”
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