For Your Eyes Only: SomNoir in the San Francisco Chronicle

Posted on March 02, 2015 by SomNoir Company

Excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle's Style Section: Full article located here.  

Sam Hilliard polishes a handmade eyeglass frame at the Tech Shop in San Francisco. Photo: Paul Chinn / Paul Chinn / The Chronicle / ONLINE_YES

For SomNoir Eyewear’s Sam Hilliard, designing eyeglasses isn’t just about fashion, it’s engineering.

“With accessories, eyewear really is as close to architecture as it gets,” Hilliard said while working in his retail space at the Artful Gentleman showroom. “You’re basically creating a frame for a face. It’s part aesthetic, part equation — a marriage of function and art.” Now Hilliard is bringing his unique design skills directly to clients, who can commission him to create custom spectacles through his new bespoke services.

Hilliard started SomNoir in 2008 while also designing home lighting fixtures, which he credits with giving him a greater sense of proportion and an understanding of how to highlight one’s best features. “The face and the home are no different in that regard,” Hilliard says.

SomNoir’s take on classic American, sport-influenced frames conveys the same sense of form and geometry as sleek modern home design yet with an organic, artisanal feel. Since its inception six years ago, the line’s signature has been its use of humanely sourced bull horn, a high-quality material imported from India. Working with horn requires careful craftsmanship by Hilliard, who makes each pair by hand while utilizing sophisticated technology at SoMa’s TechShop. Hilliard experiments with everything from laser etching to mother-of-pearl accents in his line. SomNoir says it is now the only eyewear company in San Francisco offering bespoke services — a two- to three-visit process (starting at $995) where clients work with Hilliard to create a unique pair of sunglasses or eyeglasses.

Posted in bespoke, custom, eyewear, glasses, Luxury, sunglasses

The gift of sight!

Posted on December 09, 2014 by SomNoir Company

Christmas is just around the corner, and if you want the ultimate gift for that bespectacled  person in your life look no further.

Gift certificates are available for our bespoke service or for our multiple line items 

Contact us here with the amount you would like to give to that special someone, we'll send you a direct invoice and then a wrapped gift certificate.

 Sharon, the bespectacled hedgehog wears the Anna

A visit from photographer Fifi Fresh

Posted on November 11, 2014 by SomNoir Company

SomNoir eyewear was happy to have a visit from photographer Fifi Fresh a few weeks ago at the Artful Gentleman Showroom.  

You can see more at

SomNoir designer Samuel Hilliard



Special edition laser etched Carmen sunglasses

Custom Pilot sunglasses with laser etched and inked details

Will your FSA or HSA flex dollars expire? Lets put them to good use!

Posted on October 21, 2014 by SomNoir Company

Charles: Limited Victor Edition


Did you know that you can use your flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) dollars to purchase prescription eyeglasses, prescription contact lenses, and prescription sunglasses? These funds can be used for prescription eyewear, regardless of whether or not you have vision insurance.

What items qualify as FSA or HSA eligible expenses?
Your FSA or HSA typically covers expenses like prescription drugs, doctor visits and, of course, prescription eyewear! See the list below to find out if your prescription eyewear is covered.
What's Covered?
Eyeglasses with or without lenses (including over-the-counter reading glasses)
Prescription sunglasses
Sunglasses (only if medically necessary and prescribed by a physician)
Don't let them expire!
Typically, FSA dollars must be used in the same "coverage period" (i.e. calendar year) that the money was put aside. Usually the "coverage period" is defined as one calendar year (ending on Dec. 31st). However, some plans offer a grace period that will allow you to use your remaining FSA dollars until March 15 of the following year. Any unused FSA funds will be lost once your coverage period expires.
HSA dollars never expire and will remain in your account until they are used. If you do not use all of your HSA funds in a given year, the unspent money will roll over into your account for next year.
How do I purchase SomNoir Frames with my FSA  or HSA Dollars?
If you have an FSA or HSA debit card, you can enter that card's information at check-out (in our showroom or online) just like you would a normal credit card. If you do not have an FSA or HSA debit card, you will have to make your purchase using another credit card and seek reimbursement directly from your FSA or HSA provider. Most FSA or HSA providers will require you to submit a reimbursement form along with an itemized receipt or invoice.


Posted on September 24, 2014 by SomNoir Company

Being in the luxury market has been an adventure for SomNoir. A little insight from vision care product news magazine featuring SomNoir designer Sam Hilliard discusses our niche market. (original article here)


Issue Date: VCPN August 2014


Marketing luxury is all about understanding the brand—and your patient.
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Part of the SomNoir family where the emphasis is on horn is from left to right Huntsman, Lola, Carmen, and Pilot.
So explains Nick Palmiotto, vice president, sales and marketing for De Rigo Vision USA who says his business is as viable as ever. For this luxury consumer, it’s about how distinctive the product looks, how and where it’s made, and the materials used, seconds a spokesperson for the Safilo Group. “There is no recession with this class of buyer. They continue to seek out specialty products independent of market conditions.” 

“We are living in a time of rising appreciation for the craft,” adds Sam Hilliard, president and founder of SomNoir Eyewear Co. “You see this in the rise of artisan coffeehouses, microbreweries, and custom tailoring boutiques. People are definitely willing to pay extra for one’s time, skill, and effort.”

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, though the high-end market is still healthy and viable, the number of retailers that can sell this kind of product has shrunk, making it a challenge. Such is the opinion of Nadine Roth, vice president, marketing, Face à Face, who advises ECPs to concentrate on fewer brands and select products that are not mass distributed “in order to attract the clientele looking for this kind of uniqueness.”

To be successful, Anthony V. Codispoti, business director and co-founder of Activist Eyewear, suggests ECPs think of themselves as eyewear consultants and take the time to learn about their patients and how they use their eyewear. He also advocates getting to know the story behind the brand. “People need the functionality of eyewear but they’re willing to spend more for a product they become emotionally attached to,” he says. Fabrizio Gamberini, CEO at Marcolin, goes a step further, offering ECPS three golden rules for selling.
  1. Showcase an assortment. “Display the entire collection, not just a few pieces. People want to select, touch, see, and understand where the brand is going.”
  2. Product presentation is critical. Forget hidden items behind a cabinet and leverage on the marketing material provided.
  3. Make it easy for the patient to find women’s vs. men’s, plastic vs. metal, low price point vs. high price point, etc., “so you can show the difference between the expensive products with regard to material, design elements, and so on,” he concludes.
SomNoir Eyewear’s Hilliard believes there are three types of patients: Those who have to have the over-$500 eyewear because it fits them perfectly, those who have to have it because it’s expensive, and those who have to have it because it’s special. This includes the patient of more modest means who appreciates the timelessness and top-quality artisanship and materials these frames offer.

Josh Josephson, OD, and owner of Toronto-based Josephson Opticians expands on this. Materials he’s seen that are popular in this price range include higher-quality titanium, wood, buffalo horn, special fabrication patents, such as LINDBERG’s hinge, precious metals, and semi-precious and precious stones. “We all look at the face first,” he states. “And so folks like to create an impression with the signature characteristics of their eyewear.”

Here’s a rundown of what some select brands are offering:

Activist: A single brand with a single collection centered on the term “Activist,” this eyewear is for an individual committed to movement. The frames are co-injected plastic and rubber, and feature hingeless Split-Flex™ temples with beta-titanium core, vented nosepads, and ActiVIZm™ polarized lenses.

De Rigo Vision USA: The company is known for its dynamic mix of brands including Chopard, Lanvin, Givenchy, Escada, Carolina Herrera, Furla, and Ermenegildo Zegna. Chopard, in particular, offers patients eyewear on par with jewelry. Each piece is hand-assembled by highly trained artisans one piece at a time, taking over 200 hours to complete one frame. Made in Italy, it contains the highest gold content of most luxury collections at five microns of  23K gold.

Face à Face: The Paris-based company focuses on designs that are “out there,” like its Punkit or Bocca sunglasses, which are considered “art” and produced in limited editions. Most contain precious or unique metals, including aluminum mixed with acetate for men and strong details like spikes and rivets for women.

Marcolin: Metal and acetate combinations continue to be strong. “We have amazing Tom Ford and Balenciaga frames that, despite the price, we cannot keep in stock,” says Gamberini. “Stones and crystals, seen in Swarovski and Roberto Cavalli styles, are also very popular. Any usage of special materials such as horn and leather on Montblanc eyewear is always a success.”

Safilo: The company is offering several frames in the high-end range in its various sunwear designer collections. Dior, for example, recently introduced three distinctive women’s styles featuring high-quality manufacturing techniques: a women’s runway style called Dior So Real and limited-editions Dior Superb/S and Dior Exquise/S. The Dior Enigmatic will release in September. On the men’s side, Dior will be introducing the Black Tie Style No. 193/S which is available in black or blue leather and the Black Tie Style No. 2.0 FS in titanium.

Gucci will offer two luxurious models: Style Nos. GG3692/S and GG3693/S later this fall in time for the holidays and will feature the exclusive Gucci’s intricate Diamantissima design pattern on gold-plated temples. Fendi will also be releasing a limited-edition sunglass, Style No. 0031/F/S. Bottega Veneta rolled out sun Style No. BV 261/S in titanium in May to select customers.

SomNoir: This six-year-old company puts an emphasis on handcrafted attention to detail. Of the 15 designs in its current line, many come in both ophthalmic and sunglass frames. The line focuses on genuine horn which Hilliard says has the “blessing of unique organic beauty and an unmatched polish feel.” All frames are natural and green—no plastics or petrochemical processes—and are hypoallergenic and boast an exclusive color variation.

Knowing the history behind each frame, and its specific features in terms of construction, materials, and details, will go far in helping you build a special rapport with your patient, satisfy her emotional needs, and hopefully, establish your dispensary as the one she’ll return to again and again for luxury eyewear.

Jeanne Muchnick is Managing Editor of VCPN.

Vision Expo West

Posted on September 17, 2014 by SomNoir Company


SomNoir Designer Samuel Hilliard will be visiting Vision Expo West.  If you are hoping to catch up with all things SomNoir reach out @

We hope to see you there!  




Artful Gentleman + Cari Borja + SomNoir: Photography by Kelly Puleio

Posted on August 01, 2014 by SomNoir Company

Suits by Artful Gentleman dresses by Cari Borja and eyewear by SomNoir.  

To see the newest collections from these innovative designers and more don't miss the upcoming benefit for the HRC, Artful Gentlemans own: Suit up for Equality.

 SomNoir Pilot and Lola sunglasses


SomNoir Marilyn and Carmen sunglasses


Carmen sunglasses in black bull horn

SomNoir Huntsman Sunglasses


Marilyn and Huntsman Sunglasses


Photo rights reserved by Artful Gentleman. Photos by Kelly Puleio Photography 

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