Meet Michael (Mike) Makras, owner of Optiko, James St’s resident optometrist and purveyor of all things eye care and wear.
Nestled in between Samantha Ogilvie and Gail Sorronda, Optiko fits right in with its fashion-forward neighbours. Mike travels the globe for spectacles and sunglasses, from cult designer labels to unique, hard to find items – these treasures reside alongside his custom eyewear range, which he co-creates with designers in Germany.
Designer hat off, optometrist hat on, find Mike in-store most days conducting eye examinations – the team use gold-standard eye care technology, so your sights can always be set on an accurate eye test.
We chatted with Mike, A.K.A the man behind the lens, about his passion for art, entrepreneurial journey and the valuable life lessons learnt in his 30-year optical career.
With over 30 years’ experience in the field of optometry, what started your love affair with all thing’s eye care and eyewear?
I loved going to the doctors as a kid, it’s one of my earliest memories, I think it’s because I admired the way they solved peoples problems, so I suppose I wanted to do something similar, it was inspiring. I was quite the science nerd at school, I was obsessed with physics and biology!
Describe Optiko in three words?
Unique, evolving, surprising.
Optiko stock a carefully curated selection of eyewear from exclusive handmade items, designer eyewear and pieces dating from the 1950s to 80s, tell us how you curate the collection.
Soon after its inception, I started making annual pilgrimages to the international eyewear shows, to meet emerging eyewear designers,
to learn and to get inspired, so over the years, I have built a substantial selection of pieces that continues to grow and grow. I admire beautiful form. Last year my eldest daughter Charlotte came with me to the Milan show, for the first time… it was such a joy to work together on that trip.
Optiko also creates its own range of eyewear; what is your creative process?
I meet with our German designers annually and initially get inspired by whatever that year’s newest raw acetate materials. I tend to design pieces that seem to be missing in our other collections that I sense our clients want, be it classic or super avant-garde.
Your knowledgeable staff in-store, are all eyewear and eye care professionals with backgrounds as Dispensing Opticians – what does exceptional service mean to you?
I am so lucky to be blessed with such a great team that is always willing to learn, and a team that genuinely loves beautiful eyewear.
Exceptional service for us means so many things, but one particular thing that is important to us is helping our clients find the piece that reflects their true inner self, even if they don’t know it yet. It is still so rewarding to see that happen on a daily basis!
The façade of your store often plays home to custom artwork installations by local artists – why is art important to you and are there any collaborations on the horizon?
Artists for me make essential contributions to the fabric and soul of humanity and art seems to be such a powerful way to engage the human spirit on many levels, it fills in the missing gaps of an often unbalanced world and helps to “glue” things back together, often in a better way than before things were cracked. We are always looking at supporting emerging artists and showcasing their ideas on our front window! Especially now that we are entering a more resolute stage of the COVID era.
Since founding Optiko in 2006, what are some valuable insights from your business journey?
Always follow your heart but also lend an ear to your gut at the same time! Be clear with your vision, but be open to change. Work with people you respect.
What does support local mean to you?
Not only does it mean choosing to spend money here whereas possible, but also supporting locals get their words or messages out, especially if that means supporting those that need it most.
What is a good book you’ve recently read?
Stephen Fry MYTHOS, I loved it.
What do you love about what you do?
Solving peoples problems, it gives me the biggest buzz.
Imagine there are no travel restrictions – where do you travel too?
Oh gosh, you just made my heart rate hasten. Greece… hmmm and then maybe India …. hang on Sweden …aaargh
August 24, 2020