Ace & Tate AW15 Constructional Elements Home Try-On Review

October 21, 2015

ace & tate aw15 stage one review with closeup frames

Those who know me, even only a little, are probably aware that I'm a bit obsessed with eyewear. A full-time glasses wearer since ditching irritating contacts several years back, I began my love affair with the whole affordable glasses concept when Warby Parker first launched in the U.S. in 2010. Now that I'm EU-based, Ace & Tate is my go-to for owning multiple frames to mix up my look depending on my mood - and letting me see things clearly for a relatively low price. I'm a big, big fan.

ace & tate AW15 glasses constructional elements metal temples on Dylan in autumn leaves

In an effort to put all my eyewear obsessing to good use, I figured I'd help my fellow four-eyes by doing a round-up of Ace & Tate's first collection of Autumn/Winter 2015 frames (for more, see my first home try-on last year here). I have found it invaluable to see how frames look on more than just the one website model, not to mention getting a better feel for sizes and colors. If I hadn't seen my beautiful Lucca frames in the pop-up shop here in Berlin, I never would have ordered them. What appeared to be a rather garish peachy-pink online somehow became the most gorgeous nude against my skin tone. So if you can't get your hands on this collection in a shop or perhaps are unsure of where to start with a home try-on, I'm here to help:

Not reviewed: new frame the Miles
ace & tate aw15 home try-on rounds

ace & tate aw15 review wilson glasses in tiger wood
Wilson in Tiger Wood

This rather classic frame shape and colorway appealed to me immediately online, and in person, I could see why. It's soft-edged, squarish shape is very flattering and the warm brown is both versatile and rich. The slightly more delicate frames and arms give a more masculine style a softer, more feminine touch, which is spot-on for my style. It reminded me a little of when I first tried the George on, but with an amped up elegance.

ace & tate AW15 glasses wilson in tiger wood closeup looking down
ace & tate AW15 glasses wilson in tiger wood side

ace & tate aw15 review easton glasses in champagne
Easton in Champagne

I had high hopes for this frame because it was reminiscent of my Luccas: round with a light color. But light frames, I've found, can be the toughest of all. While this Champagne hue is enticing both in name and neutrality, it's a difficult match for someone of my fair-skin, fair-haired persuasion. The frame shape and size was great, not overly large and round as I was expecting (keeping in mind that I already wear what many people would consider oversized frames), I just wished it came in some of the new brown-based tortoises, like Autumn Leaves. I've seen frames this color look great on folks with darker hair and slightly cooler skin tones, and I'd highly recommend this frame to them. Sadly for me, it was a pass.

ace & tate AW15 glasses easton in champagne closeup front
ace & tate AW15 glasses easton in champagne front

ace & tate aw15 review lily glasses in autumn leaves
Lily in Autumn Leaves

This was the immediate winner of my first batch of try-ons this season. Feminine without being overly so, these roundish frames are large enough to make a statement but light enough to not feel overpowering. Very Euro eyewear chic. And this Autumn Leaves colorway - I'm in love! It's the perfect lighter, neutral tortoise that is neither too yellow nor too red (two of my biggest beefs with the most classic of glasses colors). The Lily is a definite contender for my next pair of frames.

ace & tate AW15 glasses lily in autumn leaves closeup with hair
ace & tate AW15 glasses lily in autumn leaves looking down

ace & tate aw15 review george glasses in champagne
George in Champagne

Unsurprisingly after the Eastons, the George in the same color was rather disappointing. Again, the Champagne would be great on the right person, but something about it in this shape felt a little lacking. I remembered liking this frame when I tried it on in my first home try-on, but in this combination, I was put off of the frame as well. Perhaps I just prefer these stronger, more masculine shapes in more classic tones, but I was left wanting more from this pair.

ace & tate AW15 glasses george in champagne front

ace & tate aw15 review morris glasses in taupe tortoise
Morris in Taupe Tortoise

I admit, the introduction of metal elements was not at all appealing to me, but I figured if I was going to a proper review of the newest collection, it would be necessary to try these as well. I couldn't have been more surprised! The metal arms didn't read as 'nineties nerd', as I feared they might. Instead, they offered a fresh architectural element to balance out the plastic that's been the trend for so many years now. I will admit that in this round frame, the combination is a bit of a throwback frame to a much older era, but if you can pull it off, it's a great frame to do it with. The brushed metal is a soft, slightly cool-toned brass that plays the part of a great neutral. The small caveat I had was that the taupe that came across as a cool neutral on the website read much more yellow in the sunlight. Great for those with the right coloring, but perhaps a bit too off for me.

ace & tate AW15 glasses morris in taupe tortoise closeup of metal temples and arms
ace & tate AW15 glasses morris in taupe tortoise closeup of metal arms
ace & tate AW15 glasses morris in taupe tortoise with metal arms

ace & tate aw15 review ella glasses in greyhound grey
Ella in Greyhound Grey

A pretty classic, oversized cat-eye frame, Ella also surprised me a little. This shape has never been my favorite, its dramatic flair often overpowering for my more introverted tendencies. Though this particular frame in this muted hue felt soft and feminine, like something I could actually pull off. Even though they didn't feel 100% "me", I was very tempted by the Ella.

ace & tate AW15 glasses ella in greyhound grey closeup looking down
ace & tate AW15 glasses ella in greyhound grey looking to side

ace & tate aw15 review dylan glasses in autumn leaves
Dylan in Autumn Leaves

The second of the new line with 'Constructional Elements', the Dylan pairs the metal arms perfectly with the slightly thicker, squared plastic frame. This combination feels more current than on the Morris, and I can't help but still be completely smitten with the Autumn Leaves tortoise. Perhaps it's because it's so close to my all-time favorite Warby Parker frame: the Preston in now defunct Pearl Tortoise (pictured below). The metal is also a perfect not silver, yet not gold natural that won't make you choose sides with your jewelery collection. Best of all: those slim metal arms seem strong enough to hold up to my clumsiness without bending all out of shape. These were definitely my favorite out of the second round of try-ons.

ace & tate AW15 glasses dylan in autumn leaves showing side with metal arms
ace & tate AW15 glasses dylan in autumn leaves closeup front with metal temples
ace & tate AW15 glasses dylan in autumn leaves side with metal arms
Ace & Tate Dylan in autumn leaves versus Warby Parker in pearl tortoise

ace & tate aw15 review baker in rich mahogany
Baker in Rich Mahogany

I tried this frame on at a pop-up shop and remembering liking its flattering shape, but passed on it because of its ubiquitous styling. This try-on has made me rethink this logic. That classic shape is a classic for a reason! Here again, I was surprised by how much I liked this color. For a child of the eighties, red frames can have off-putting associations with Sally Jessy Raphael. These that looked so red online, had a more brown, slightly muddled, tortoise-like appearance that was a far cry from the bright cherry reds I remember from yesteryear. While these didn't have the 'wow' factor some of the others had for me, these are frames I would love to have tucked away for a rainy day.

ace & tate AW15 glasses baker in rich mahogany side
ace & tate AW15 glasses baker in rich mahogany looking left

It's also worth noting that Ace & Tate home try-ons now come with a tool to measure your pupillary distance (the distance between the centers of the pupils of each of your eyes) yourself. While you still need to enlist the help of a friend for accurate measurements, it's great to obtain this on your own, as opposed to depending on a eye examiner that may not want to release this information to go order frames with someone else (I've heard this has become as issue in the U.S. with all the online retailers). The packaging and process also continues to be streamlined and simple, making it that much easier to pick out your next set of frames. Ace & Tate's pledge “with every pair of glasses you purchase from us, you help provide someone in need with access to eyecare” continues, so you really have no reason not to order with them.

How about you: Do you wear glasses? Which of Ace & Tate's new frames do you like?

Ace & Tate eyeglasses box frames and pupillary distance measurement tool

This review is my honest and unbiased opinion. I have not been compensated in any way by Ace & Tate, I just love its products.

Festival of Lights 2015

October 15, 2015

Berlin Festival of Lights 2015 Berliner Dom cathedral with hearts

Every time I start to lament that all the great summer events are over and there is such a long wait until the Christmas season starts, I realize that smack dab in the middle is that spectacular Berlin show: The Festival of Lights. A precursor to the holiday market rounds, the Festival hits usually around the same time as the brisk shift in weather, requiring one to bundle up tight in order to withstand chilling nighttime temperatures and tour the light shows. Sometimes a shock to one's fresh-off-summer sensibilities, it's still quite a show.

If you haven't made it out to see any illuminations this year, I highly recommend at least making the stroll from the Berlin Cathedral down Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz. They are indeed different from last year, with the Humboldt University display (first photos below) my absolute favorite this time around. Pack a bottle of something strong or be prepared to buy a few coffees along the way to keep the blood flowing. Trust me, it's worth it.

Berlin Festival of Lights 2015 Humboldt Universität front with statue
Berlin Festival of Lights 2015 Humboldt Universität gate and side wing illuminations
Berlin Festival of Lights 2015 Hotel de Rome and lit up bike taxi Berlin Festival of Lights 2015 Humboldt University Faculty of Law

Berlin Festival of Lights 2015 Brandenburg Gate
Berlin Festival of Lights 2015 house of cards
Berlin Festival of Lights 2015 house of cards Berlin Festival of Lights 2015 electrical cords for house of cards

Berlin Festival of Lights 2015 Potsdamer Platz lights inside building
Berlin Festival of Lights 2015 Berliner Dom cathedral with colorful angels and TV tower behind

For more information, see the festival website and map of illuminations

A tattoo with San Francisco artist Brücius in Berlin

October 13, 2015

Brücius floral magnolia arm tattoo _3

Brücius is the kind of artist that people wait for. Ten months, to be exact, is the estimated wait time for an appointment with him. His style is very specific, yet classic and timeless. It has the feel of art found in vintage textbooks and children's stories, which I was immediately drawn to because of my love of books. I had been wanting to be tattooed by him for years, and somehow, it came to fruition very, very quickly. This is how it went down:

Perusing my far-too-full Instagram feed a few days before my birthday back in September, I happened upon a photo from my very favorite tattoo artist with #Milan in the caption. Berlin being the tattoo capital that it is, I asked in the comments if he might be headed to my city while he was over here - and he was. Scrolling back, I discovered an announcement I had missed while bogged down with Bailey's cancer diagnosis and my own travel plans: A Brücius European Tour! Milan, Berlin, London and Paris. And the dates? Berlin at AKA on my birthday. Are you kidding me? It actually made me tear up a bit, so upset for having missed something so potentially huge.

AKA in Neukölln, where Brücius was a guest artist in September
AKA Berlin tattoo storefront in Neukölln

Optimistic, I asked if he was booked (via Twitter, Instagram AND email, because I'm obsessive like that), and not surprisingly, he was. Perhaps because of my persistence, or my regular stalking/commenting on his IG account for quite some time, he did offer a free consult while he was in town. I stayed glued to my phone, checking email and Instagram for the next day as if my life depended on it. When he finally replied with a place he was hanging out for the afternoon, I said I'd be there in 30 minutes.

Easy to spot with his gold nose piercing, he was sitting at a corner cafe in Neukölln with a Macbook and an Orangina when I approached, with butterflies in my stomach. He immediately invited me to sit and called the waitress over for me to order something to drink. What I noticed right away was his ease and openness. So many tattoo artists, especially ones with talent and a huge following, can be, let's just be honest, cocky bastards. Brücius was the polar opposite. He was very invested in my ideas and what I was looking for, even for what began as just a free consultation. He seemed like a much younger artist, someone unburdened by his fame and not-yet-jaded by the industry. Perhaps that's a reflection of his relatively short time in the tattooing world, but his decades of experience as a visual artist leaves little room to doubt his talents.

After talking for a little bit and admitting I was uncertain the next time I would be back in San Francisco, he began thinking out loud that he might actually have time to fit me in the following day. My eyes widened at the prospect and couldn't help but sputter out: "That would be amazing, because tomorrow's my birthday!". From that moment on, we went from talking in the abstract about ideas, to pulling up images and designs online to use as reference. By the time we ended our meeting, my heart was racing with nervousness and apprehension - I had an appointment! I went from meeting my favorite artist to talk about a tattoo I might like one day, to deciding what I actually wanted permanently on my body the very next day. At one point, he even cautioned that I didn't have to do this if I wasn't ready. I nearly laughed in his face. Brücius here in Berlin, offering to tattoo me on my birthday, and I'd turn it down? Puh-lease.

The necessary design research
Pinterest board for Brücius magnolia tattoo

All I really knew is that I wanted something beautiful. Pretty lame and vague, right? So, I'd always admired floral arm pieces because they really are timeless, but preferred something less obvious. After realizing I like the woodiness and leaves of a floral tree, rather than a plant, it really narrowed things down. I thought dogwood at first, but when I began looking up images of magnolias, I knew I had found my flower. It reminded me of climbing the magnolia tree in my neighbor's front yard when I was young and way the blossoms hung heavy on the branches until the wilted petals fell off, carpeting the ground beneath much like a blanket of fragrant snow. The dancing colors of white and pink, never completely one or the other, enchanted me. I scoured the internet for high-resolution photos of magnolia blossoms and branches, as well as a little geometric thrown in as well, to create the Pinterest board that Brücius would work from.

One last look at my bare arm before we got started...
Last look at bare arm in AKA Berlin tattoo mirror

When I arrived at AKA on the evening of my birthday, where he was the guest artist for a few days, it was an off day and so we had the place all to ourselves. Brücius and his assistant made me feel welcome and comfortable. We started by talking through how this process would work: picking the best images that I had chosen and then creating the design on my arm from those. For hours, we edited in Photoshop, patched things together, printed them out, taped them on my arm, ripped pieces off, re-taped and reconfigured. Incredibly, all this work is done free of charge. Brücius doesn't start the clock until the needle first touches your skin. I can't express how great it felt to be part of the process, and how much it put me at ease, especially since this design was not something I had already been planning and agonizing over for months. Finally, three hours later, we were ready to started.

The master at work
Brücius working on floral arm tattoo at AKA Berlin

The design we configured was printed out on a very Jetsons-esque (boy, am I dating myself here) printer, that looked more like a bulky ruler than office equipment, with transfer paper so it could be applied to my skin. The temporary tattoo of sorts served as an outline for him to start the design on my skin. For better or worse, he began with the flowers on my inner arm and holy shit did it hurt! I have three other tattoos and while it never fails to be a sobering reminder when you first start a new one, this was far and away the most sensitive spot I've been tattooed (even more so than around my ankle bone). As he continued to work, at times firmly rotating my skin around the get the best angle, I remembered how that jarring feeling soon starts to dull and you almost get used to it. As he worked around my outer arm, I soon hardly noticed the pain... until he came back around to the inside and then it was like a hard slap to the face. That is a tough area, my friends. Very tough indeed.

In progress... and capturing the freshly finished artwork

In progress floral arm tattoo by Brücius at AKA Berlin Final floral tattoo from Brücius at AKA Berlin

Brücius originally quoted two hours for a design that was expected to be even larger and more complex than where we were heading, so after two hours came and went, I started to get a little nervous. As we continued through the next hour, I realized how we had gotten so beyond our schedule: Since he doesn't do traditional tattoos, any shading in the design were made up of fine lines or dots rather than a solid sweep of ink. We stopped a few times closer to the end to look in the mirror and from all angles to see if anything was missing. Note: once you stop and then start again, sensitivity goes way up as your body readjusts to the pain - the longer you can keep going in one sitting, the better. While we talked though a few details, like additional leaves and a higher branch on my shoulder, he continued to go back over other areas, reworking until he was happy with them. The template that was put on my skin had been washed away after he got a general outline inked, then worked the entire rest of the piece from his own artistic vision. At one point, he started talking through the detail of the branches and how he didn't want to do the striations so often seen in etching (his speciality) because he was never happy with the way it turns out. I felt a little disappointed, as I love this look, but I gave myself over and trusted his vision. Unsurprisingly, I was thrilled with the way the wood looked in the end.

Brücius and me, you know, hangin'
Brücius and me post-tattooing of floral arm piece at AKA Berlin

Just over three hours after we started the tattoo, and six hours after we first started working on the design, I was done. My husband had come to get me nearly a hour earlier and the next clients had already been there for some time, all of us chatting together like a casual kind of tattooing party. Even with a lineup that would surely keep him there past dawn, Brücius still took the time to thoroughly go over all the post-tattoo maintenance (which creams, which creams not to use, no swimming/sun/sweating, etc.), take several photos and give me a big hug. In the end, he charged me only for the two hours he quoted, saying "happy birthday", though he had already given me perhaps the best birthday present I could have asked for.

My new tattoo playing very nicely with my last one
Brücius floral magnolia arm tattoo outstretched with script

A month later, all healed and looking great

Brücius floral magnolia tattoo down front of arm Brücius floral magnolia tattoo down side of arm

I don't know how I got so lucky to have made this happen, but I'm so grateful. I was convinced that he conceded after I admitted it was my birthday, but Brücius claims it was simply because I showed up to meet him. Either way, he took a lot of time out of his brief stay in Berlin to make my birthday wish come true. I made rather quick decisions on the design, and yet I'm still so happy with the result. I adore the way it wraps around my arm, the bulk of the blooms around the front and inside, more for me to see, with only a small hint from the back. The painstakingly tattooed dots and lines that create the depth in his designs are clearly a labor of love and proof of his attention to detail. His light hand while tattooing - not to mention his lighter, quieter rotary tattoo machine, as opposed to the traditional coil machines associated with that loud buzzing - and awareness of his client's pain levels made the whole experience even more of a pleasure. We never did get around to adding any geometric elements to my tattoo, but that's all the more reason to plan a trip back to San Francisco for another session with Brücius...

Brücius magnolia arm tattoo wrapped with script from the back