We’re kicking off August with a quality interview with Zack Moscot, the torch bearer of the 101-year-old MOSCOT brand of New York. They have been producing quality eye-wear and eye-glasses since Hyman Moscot arrived on Ellis Island in the 19th century – a true embodiment of the American dream.
1. Can you provide us with some background on yourself, anything you want to share, your upbringings, and what you are like as a creative director, founder, and individual?
Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to be a part of the MOSCOT club…our family business. But not as an optician or a doctor. I wanted to find a way that was unique to my interests and skills.
The Moscot generations before me are what I call “eyes guys.” First generation Hyman Moscot, second generation Sol Moscot, and third generation Joel Moscot were all opticians, and my father and fourth generation, Harvey Moscot, is an optometrist.
I was always very interested in art, design, fashion and technology, and I spent a lot of time in the studio drawing, and playing my guitar. I wanted to do something I was passionate about and in college I realized this was joining the family business, only I didn’t want to deal directly with eyeballs like the generations before me! Instead, I combined my passions – pursuing a degree in design with a focus on eyewear.
As a fifth generation Moscot, whose not an “eyes guy,” I’m able to help evolve the MOSCOT brand and story, yet also provide new insights and ideas from a completely different perspective – be it through creative content, product design, or business initiatives. Philosophically, I always aim to be holistic in my thoughts, work processes, and the way the different aspects of the company work together.
2. How did the brand launch, what was this process like for the 1st generation, and how was it passed down to you? Can you explain the story behind the name?
My great-great-grandfather Hyman Moscot emigrated from Eastern Europe via Ellis Island in 1899. Hyman began selling ready-made eyeglasses from a pushcart on Orchard Street in Lower East Side. The first MOSCOT brick-and-mortar shop opened in 1925, and was located at 94 Rivington Street, and each generation since, including my great-grandfather Sol, my grandfather Joel, and my father Harvey, have been a part ofthe family business. As I mentioned, all of the generations before me were opticians and my father is an optometrist. I joined as the brand’s fifth generation as a product designer, with aspirations to tell the story of my family legacy through eyewear. I truly believe that our 100+ year history, and generational devotion to eyewear is something our fans connect with. Our product and passion is unique because of our unparalleled expertise and enthusiasm for eyewear and eyecare.
3. What is your creative process and outlet with the brand, how did this process start and how has it continued?
The quirkiness, humor, fun, and aesthetic of MOSCOT are all organic attributes of the brand – a result of our history as a 100-year-old-plus, downtown, New York City family business. With our roots in the Lower East Side of Manhattan our shops have always attracted artists, musicians, and independent thinkers. These attributes, and the neighborhood we’ve always lived in are reflected in our frame designs, and our overall brand DNA. We are simply ourselves, and we do what we do best, the MOSCOT way. Even as we evolve as a company and as a brand, we stay true to our roots, who we are, and where we came from.
4. We personally think you have an amazing team, and are up to whatever challenges are put in your direction. Throughout this entire journey, what has been your biggest struggle as a 5th generation owner?
There is always a lot of pressure in joining a family business, especially one that is quite small. At MOSCOT, the family extends beyond blood, and so it has always been pivotal that I exude that warmth to all. We are all one big family and understand the heritage of the brand and the hard work of the generations before us. The biggest challenges have been, and continue to be, advancing the company’s infrastructure both organizationally, as well as systemically. There is no doubt that some of our legacy habits may be considered “old-school” to some, yet there is a fine line in growing up and advancing our systems, while maintaining our successful vibes and ways of the past. It is this balance between past, present, and future that I pay close attention to.
5. The designs we have seen are beautiful, how would you describe your customers, what are they looking for in your product, and how do you ensure this congruency between the brand and them.
We are very fortunate to have a strong and loyal following of fans and customers who appreciate the classic, timeless design of our frames. We find that those who come into our shops have an innate appreciation for our authentic story. MOSCOT is a five-generation family business, with over 101 years of expertise in eyewear and eyecare. Our shops evoke this heritage, and we believe consumers can feel that history and emotional connection to the product when they visit us. We strongly stand behind the quality of our frames, and we provide unique historical packaging that expresses the depth of our family history. Every customer experience in a MOSCOT Shop has to be memorable. We are committed to providing the same level of customer service that my grandfather Joel, and great grandfather Sol were renowned for. The generations before me were dedicated to their customers, and ensured that each visit to MOSCOT was a special experience. The quality of our frames combined with superior customer service is the recipe we feel has ensured congruency between the brand and our customers.
6. What are the next steps for the brand in terms of growth and creativity? How has that shaped your product lines, collections, and individual products?
My father and I work everyday to stay true to our roots and find new ways to evolve the story of MOSCOT. We have ambitions to tell our five-generation family business story to the world by opening more retail shops, both in the United States and internationally. It has taken us 100 years to get to where we are today, so we are mindful of how we chose to grow. With design, we will continue to evolve The MOSCOT Collections by exploring new shapes, materials, and lens technologies, but we will always stay true to the core aesthetic that is MOSCOT. With 101 years under our belt, we want to be around for another 101 years!
7. As the designer and creative source of MOSCOT, what has been one of the biggest changes you’ve implemented or created to the brand?
From a product perspective, I am focused on creating one cohesive MOSCOT product line, based on the MOSCOT brand, and aesthetic. While our MOSCOT/Originals Collection is based on our family archives, our MOSCOT/Spirit Collection, which has grown significantly in the past few years, features all new designs, while still reflecting the brand’s core silhouettes and unmistakable MOSCOT aesthetic. With such a strong brand message and history, it’s so important our product reflect our identity, language, and ethos. In this light, we are constantly improving the quality of our frames by enhancing the materials, hinge designs, screws, and rivets. My hope is that our customers will feel an emotional connection to our brand and our legacy through the product itself, and wear our frames for a lifetime.
8. For a family business that is so deeply ingrained with its history and legacy, how was the transition into a brand that valued creativity and design? Was this change easy for the brand overall?
This transition was natural for the brand. As a 101-year-old, downtown NYC optical shop, our brand has evolved organically. Being located in such a diverse urban setting in the Great City of New York, we find inspiration from all of the creative people who work for us, who visit our shops, as well as from the city itself. Our retail shops are home to a melting pot of individuals who all share the same love of classic designs, quality products and great service. We take advantage of our diverse customer base and use our retail shops as labs for new models, creative programs, and new initiatives. Our synergy of heritage, NYC context, and fashion-oriented thinking allows creativity and design to flow naturally.
9. You talked a lot about the legacy of MOSCOT’s past, what is the legacy you’re creating, and what are these attributes that we can see in the brand today?
My father and I believe that part of the legacy we create is based on our ability to maintain the core principles of our predecessors. We focus on our ability to maintain superior customer service throughout all aspects of the business, by maintaining a humble and modest attitude, while keeping our customers at the forefront. This is what makes us Moscots! It’s also key we reflect this attitude internally with our MOSCOT family and those around us. We want to continue to be the personable and friendly shop that people want to come to and enjoy being a part of. Our goal is to continue creating the best quality product at a fair price point. We want our customers to understand our innate passion for what we do, and we really hope that it is felt through our attention to design, craftsmanship, service, and kindness.
10. As MOSCOT grows bigger, and reaches a wider audience with its new strategy, how do you plan to exude the “warmth” that is ingrained in the brand’s DNA?
For us, the key is to continue doing what we do well and not stray away from our strengths. We work closely with our MOSCOT authorized dealers who exude the MOSCOT experience, so no matter where you are in the world, if you buy a MOSCOT frame, you will receive the same warmth, expertise, and customer experience as you would in one of our shops. In an omnichannel world, we work tirelessly to ensure our brand message and warmth is consistent throughout all channels, be it online, retail, or wholesale. In addition to our stockists worldwide, and as I mentioned earlier, we make every effort to provide an intimate, living-room experience within our own MOSCOT-branded retail shops, with our own MOSCOT family, for customers who visit us.
11. With renewed creativity and design, do you find that your customer base has changed over time? How do you gain these new customers while retaining the life long customers your father and grandfather have created.
The other day I was on the retail floor helping customers and a young girl came up to the counter and said, “I’m so excited to be here because my grandmother used to buy her glasses from you and she loves you guys and your family.” Honestly, I had goosebumps, as I realized that my grandfather or even great-grandfather probably helped this girl’s grandmother in our shop years ago, and here I am, generations later, helping her. This to me is the perfect example of how treating people fairly, and providing the right service and quality product can retain a customer for a lifetime, or in this instance, multiple generations! These are the principles that have been ingrained upon me growing up, and I can only hope that if we can continue to create great products and exude the warm customer service we’re known for, that our existing customers will return and new ones might too.
A brand like MOSCOT with such a long history isn’t just a store or a retail chain – it’s a fashion establishment born from creativity, the soul of New York, and business sense. Thank you for sharing your story with us MOSCOT, I am sure your legacy for customer service excellence and quality will be passed down for generations to come.