Moscot, the 106-year-old family-run eyewear brand, has officially arrived in Toronto, having opened the doors to its first ever Canadian optical shop in late December. The new location, on Cumberland Street in Yorkville, marks Moscot’s 17th shop worldwide and is the latest step in the brand’s international expansion.
Moscot — which remains an anomaly in the eyewear space: a truly family-owned and operated brand — was founded in 1915 by Hyman Moscot, who arrived in New York from Eastern Europe via Ellis Island in 1899 before selling eyeglasses from a pushcart in the Lower East Side. In the decades since, the brand’s glasses have become a cult favourite, spotted on the likes of Andy Warhol and Tom Hanks, owing to their classic, timeless designs, and construction.
While Moscot has been a New York City fixture for over a century, only under current CEO Dr. Harvey Moscot — the fourth generation to helm Moscot and a trained optometrist — has the brand embarked on a global expansion, adding retail locations in far flung style capitals like Copenhagen, Tokyo, and Seoul. “We’ve always been brick-and-mortar first. And while the pandemic was tough on retail, we always view crisis as something of an opportunity for finding good leases in good locations,” explains Dr. Harvey of how Moscot’s Toronto location came to be.
It’s a good location indeed: a cozy storefront along Cumberland Street in the heart of Yorkville. Before settling on the location — which is now, of course, dressed head-to-toe in Moscot’s recognizable yellow — Zack and Harvey explored other potential landing spots, such as nearby Bloor Street or Queen West. “Zack and I walk the cities that we have an interest in [and we] felt [Yorkville] had all the ingredients: a local community, public transportation, other brands that would attract some international trade. It’s like a village; it’s concentrated, and it feels intimate,” says Dr. Harvey.
Inside, the shop is classically Moscot. The walls are lined with an almost overwhelming array of eyeglasses and sunglasses (or, at the very least, pictures of celebrities wearing Moscot glasses). “A lot of the colours and materials are based off the authentic construction and colours of the time [when a frame was designed],” says Zack Moscot, chief design officer and Harvey’s son. “I’m always trying to see how far we can push [the design] but still stay true to who we are.” The space itself similarly nods to the brand’s history, fitted with tin ceilings and light fixtures built from scratch and shipped to Toronto that are inspired by original Moscot shops. “We try to bring a piece of New York wherever we go,” says Zack.
More than 100 years after being founded, Moscot has officially crossed the border, which is is good news for stylish Torontonians (and the city’s retail sector after being battered by Covid-19), but what took so long? “We move slowly,” says Dr. Harvey, laughing. “It’s taken us over 100 years to have 17 shops. We do it in a very thoughtful and measured way and try to approach markets that remind us of who and what we are and what we came from. And Toronto, to me, has a lot of what New York has — without the aggravation.”