Tucked into a small corner office above Main Street, behind a non-descript ground-level entrance and a sign so small it’s easy to miss, Paul Vu crafts glasses for some of the planet’s most famous faces.
His bespoke sunglasses have made it onto the stage with Bruno Mars and been gifted to Oprah Winfrey as a birthday from a friend of the celeb.
“I want to put Tigard on the map for this little place that can create eyewear for these big names in this little office,” he said about the compact headquarters of his EDA Frames.
Though Vu, a longtime optician, made multiple pairs of sunglasses for Mars – his first big-name client – and outfitted every member of KISS, those brushes with stardom represent just a tiny fraction of the smallest part of his business.
Bespoke – tailor making glasses for a wearer to create a perfectly fitted custom frame – is only about five percent of his work, and the service isn’t just for stars. Anyone can get the celebrity treatment and design a pair of their own with Vu.
He began to custom-make frames in his former retail shop after becoming frustrated with his inability to satisfy some customers. The optician hated seeing people walk out wearing glasses they’d settled for instead of loved.
“Why isn’t there an option where people can come in and design a frame that’s perfect for them,” he asked himself.
So, he created one. First, by taking measurements manually, and eventually using a computer with proprietary software he helped design that lets customers play with size, shape, material, and color virtually until they land on the dream pair.
Vu is one of only a handful of people around the world using the face-scanning technology.
Personalized frames start at about $600 with single-vision corrective lenses. He works strictly by appointment and makes about four pairs a month.
But the walls of his shop are lined with ready-to-wear one-of-one frames he also designed.
The bulk of Vu’s business is split between selling other manufacturers’ frames and designing glasses for brands like Nike, Prince, Elvis and his career highpoint, Bruce Lee.
“As a kid growing up, I watched all his movies. I pretended I was Bruce Lee,” he said. You scratch your nose. You make the sound. You do the jumping kicks.”
When the query from Lee’s brand came in, Vu could barely contain himself.
“I was so giddy inside,” he said. “I almost offered free services just to say, ‘Ok, I’ll take it; you don’t even have to pay me. I just want to be known as the guy who produced for Bruce Lee.”
This month he’ll become the only outlet in the Northwest selling the K-pop mega sensation boyband BTS’s branded glasses.
Thrilling as those brushes with stardom might be, donating his time, skills and materials to people who are struggling to afford proper eyewear is what he enjoys most. He volunteers with Project Homeless, helping to outfit unhoused people. Around the holidays, when he sees a young person with broken glasses, he plays Santa and invites them into the shop for a new pair.
“I know what it’s like to grow up poor and blind,” said Vu, who immigrated from war-torn Vietnam with his mother and sister when he was three years old, bombs exploding around them as they ran.
He remembers sitting at the front of every classroom, squinting and still unable to pull the chalkboard into focus, until a routine school eye screening picked up on the impairment.
“The first time I put glasses on, it was a life-changing event for me,” he said. “I was like, ‘Wow! This is what the world looks like’. It stayed in my mind for a long time.”