I’ve been an eyewear fan since I was four years old. Yes, four. I wore oversized yellow sunglasses the sunshine-y color of Big Bird. They were likely a free-gift-with-purchase-type model my Mother or Mary (my grandmother) received from Lord & Taylor or Bamburger’s. They could have also been the toy in the “Happy Meal”. I treated them like gold, not plastic. I wore them proudly when the sun was out or hiding deep behind blurry, grey clouds. By the time I was seven (and at least three optometrist visits in), I intentionally read D’s when they were clearly E’s on the white 3X3 wall paper littered with bold and faint black letters during eye exams both at school and the eye shop on Main St. in Orange, NJ, all in the hope of scoring a real pair of prescription frames. At age 8, without letting on to my ruse, the doctor “prescribed” lenses. I don’t know how much prescription if any were in the glasses (I’m sure the doctor was on to my foolery), but I had them!

Fast forward to my high school years, with TLC, especially T-Boz and Left Eye and then Aaliyah as muses, I developed a love for more shaded lenses. In fact, the darker, the better. Purchasing my first pair of “expensive” sunglasses was a rite of passage. I saved a little and chided my Mom, Mary, and “PopPop” a lot. In 1992, I landed the Ray-Ban aviators. In 1994, I “graduated” to Gucci sunnies…big Gs and all. I wore each (not at the same time) for about 3 whole months before losing them. The investment was a wash, but the lasting style impression and perfect 20/20 vision, 22 years later remains. And you can see (via my Instagram), I’m rarely without a pair of tinted frames, day or night, sun-blazing or over casted.

So imagine the thrill I felt when I was invited to serve as the ambassador of MIDO’s #neverendingwonder 2016 in Milan in February…happening in tandem with Milan Fashion Week. (You can’t, actually.) The largest eyewear and optics trade exhibition in the world, MIDO, brings together designers, licenses, optometry innovators, technology buyers, and retailers all in one (ok, several spaces) that over two days draws more than 40,000 people internationally. Consider this the Art Basel of eyewear under several roofs of the massive convention space, Fiera Milano that incorporates 340,000 square meters. In addition to presenting to more than 200 international press members on how fashion and eyewear are inextricably linked a day before the exhibition began, I learned about true eyewear design and craftsmanship. Let’s just say, I am still in awe and excited to “see” it again!

Tour Mido with Tai, 2016

While I still don’t hesitate to wear a pair of oversized, perhaps even canary yellow frames…let’s just say, after gaining a real sense of what it means to live and breathe designer eyewear, especially in Italy, I won’t likely ever wear a “gift with purchase” again. #MustKnowMido

For more info on MIDO go to www.MIDO.com.