16 Questions with Kyly Zak Rabin

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Light from Fairfax Avenue spills over gray concrete floors and natural wood walls. The geometry of the place is considered and thought out, from the giant mirrored circle (very of the moment), to the curved bench (recalling, in miniature, the likes of designer Vladimir Kagan), to the lines of choreographed merchandise. You could be in a jewelry store, or a showroom for, say, Sight Unseen. But you’re not. You’re in Zak., a new eyewear shop and optometry center—and it will make you think it’s a miracle we ever put up with anything less.

Zak., as a store, is so beautiful you’ll happily discount the reason that you’re here is that your vision is less than stellar. No bother. The frames—which include designer options as well as an in-house brand that’s both locally made and affordable—will make you thankful you have an excuse to wear them. (For those with perfect vision, fear not. They have sunglasses here, too.) It all comes courtesy of Kyly Zak Rabin and her father, Dr. Myles Zakheim, an optometrist with over thirty years of experience in the field. The store combines Zakheim’s obvious bonafides with Rabin’s experience in the start-up world working with modern consumers. Zak. is a pretty face, yes, but it’s practical, too. The shop offers things like eye exams and an on-site lab so that you can see your glasses being made in real-time.

The store is a welcome addition to what has become one of L.A.’s most vibrant shopping corridors. We suspect Zak. will continue to expand as the years go by, so keep your, err, eyes on this one. Below, we got a chance to talk to Rabin about 20/20 vision, bespectacled icons, and taking good care of those so-called windows to your soul.

Place of origin:

Los Angeles, California.

Current place of residence:

Los Angeles. I moved back in 2012 after four winters in Chicago and three winters in Washington, DC. My name, Kyly, is Australian and means “boomerang.” My mom forever joked this meant “You’ll always come back.” Guess she was right!

Previous occupation:

My background is a mix of production, operations, fundraising, and marketing. Prior to launching Zak., I worked on the development team for the board of trustees at the Kennedy Center and then transitioned into the startup world. I had a front row seat to new business in marketing roles at a few start-ups, mostly in the food and beverage industry. There was a period of time when I was running test kitchens (out of my house!) to create a roster of chefs for a new app, and part of “my job” was to eat, which was truly glorious.

Current occupation:

Working with my dad/co-founder, Dr. Myles Zakheim, on all things Zak. to create products and offer services that streamline and elevate the fragmented eye care/eyewear experience. We take a 360-degree approach to your eyes, starting from exams with our team of best-in-class optometrists to our in-house collection of exclusive frames all the way to same-day fabrication in our on-site lab. We’re bringing a fresh vision to an antiquated industry by making a personal and complicated journey more seamless. After all, the windows to your soul deserve a little maintenance from time to time.

Age when you got your first pair of glasses and what they looked like:

I was 10; they were a black rectangular frame by Lafont. The insides of the temples were a bright rainbow pattern, which my 10-year-old self was obsessed with.

Current Rx:

Negative 5.50 in both eyes. I’m near-sighted, which means I can’t see well at a distance. Without my glasses or contacts, the world is a blur! Even my laptop screen is considered “far away…” when I’m sitting right in front of it.

20/20 vision is ________:

A gift, and what we strive to provide all patients! Our eyes are resilient so we typically take them for granted. Sight allows us to experience the world in a profound way.

Favorite bespectacled icons, dead and/or alive:

Of those since past…

Yves Saint Laurent: He wore varying styles of custom-made chunky aviator-ish/rectangular-ish frames that are consistently referenced in current eyewear styles. Bold and flattering, his eyewear was a part of his everyday, like shoes.

Steve Jobs: Inspired by Gandhi, he wanted to emulate his glasses. Gandhi typically wore a very round metal frame; Steve opted for a similar shape but rimless. I live for a rimless frame and think they will have a fashion moment any second now.

Daria: I don’t consider her dead… but…

And those still with us…

Elton John: He just goes for it and his glasses closet (yes, he has one…) is truly a sight to behold.

Sally Jesse Raphael and Ali Wong: Two gals, two generations, one commonality… glasses are their signature. They make bold choices and it’s awesome to watch.

Likelihood you can see your gate number at the airport sans glasses:

Zero percent chance!

Window or aisle:

Window every time.

Three things you pack when traveling:

Eye drops. My eyes get extremely dry on planes. I love Refresh Plus Drops. Preservative-free and they reseal. You can get them a CVS!

Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C. I swear by these extra potent and extra gross-tasting gels to avoid getting sick while I travel.

All my glasses. For seeing, sun protection, and blocking blue light from my computer screen.

One thing you’re most likely to forget while traveling:

Toothbrush. I like to brush my teeth before heading to the airport, so I leave it out of my toiletries bag and inevitably it gets left behind!

Favorite stamp in your passport:

South Africa. My husband is from SA and we visit once a year to see his family. We also got engaged and married there. It’s a very complicated but magical place.

Favorite frames at Zak., presently:

Zak. Really Round Thick in Clear with a very light green tint. I’m currently into wearing a tinted lens day to night, so it has to be light enough that I can you at a dimly lit restaurant.

Three other stores/restaurants to hit on Fairfax after checking out your store:

Jon + Vinny’s. Extremely popular modern Italian that is seriously delicious. The spicy fusilli is a must. Don’t sleep on their breakfast. It’s my secret favorite meeting spot, which is convenient, as it’s right next door to Zak.

Catwalk. Amazing vintage store that has been open for 18 years! I shopped here in high school. Fave find: mini Miu Miu dress that I cannot fit into anymore but refuse to give away because it’s that good.

Canter’s. Iconic L.A. deli established in 1931. Zak. is directly across the street, which is very nostalgic for me. It’s open 24 hours. I grew up eating their matzoh ball soup and black-and-white cookies.

Fairfax is the perfect collision of every age, belief, and story in L.A. We’re proud to be here.

Hindsight is _________.

Behind you. Move on, learn from it, and look to what’s ahead.

Photos by Tyler William Parker for SIXTY Hotels

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, specializing in music, fashion, the arts, and culture, both high and low. Her work has been featured in Cereal, Lenny Letter, and more.