Mai Gornall is not your average Optometrist. As a teen, Mai developed a love for the arts but surprised everyone when she decided that she wanted to study optometry. “It was really important to for me to have a career that was steeped in service and community facing,” she recalls. However, outside of the FINLAY London testing room, Mai still has one foot firmly placed in the creative world. Using off-cuts sourced from Brick Lane, she makes leather purses which she sells via the Big Issue online. The profits go to providing feminine care kits for disadvantaged women in Hackney. Mai also makes edible flower lollipops which have proven very popular at weddings, available via Etsy.
DISRUPTING THE LANDSCAPE
Following years spent working in emergency eye care in rural Aberdeenshire, travelling the world delivering training in hospitals and working as a resident Optometrist in various London practices', Mai was introduced to the FINLAY team in 2017. “They explained their dream to open an eyewear store which would disrupt the current landscape of sight tests”. Although people are choosing to be much more expressive through their eyewear, owning more than one pair of spectacles to wear with different outfits, Mai points out, “Going to the opticians can feel like a chore. Very often it’s not done in a beautiful setting, you’re not talking to people who are interested in you and that can result in a very dry experience.
EYE TESTS AT FINLAY LONDON
Working hand in hand with Mai, FINLAY opened their first eye care practice in Soho London in January 2018. Asked to describe the sight test experience at FINLAY, Mai explains, “ We’ve crafted the diary so that myself and the other Optometrists have 30-40 minutes with each patient. This means we have enough time to really understand each patient’s reality and align our recommendations to suit each individual’s lifestyle”. But it’s also the environment which plays a key part in optimising the eye test experience. “It really helps that we have the very best technology available and that the testing room is calm and minimal. The rest of the store is beautifully designed with lots of natural light and brass fittings so it feels warm and inviting. You’re in this beautiful environment, with a huge collection of FINLAY frames and other independent brands, with people who are genuinely interested in you.”
YOUR BODY, YOUR HEALTH
Mai makes a compelling case for routinely getting your eyes checked. “I don’t think people realise just how much we can tell about your general health just by looking at your eyes, from high blood pressure to diabetes,” she says. Not only that, Mai believes that properly talking through your options with an Optometrist has the power to change your life. “I’ve seen the difference a new pair of spectacles, correctly fitted, can make to someone with a shy personality who doesn’t feel confident with their thick glasses prescription. Then you fit them with new glasses with thinned lenses and it completely changes their outlook on life. It changes their confidence, the types of jobs they go, the relationships that they have.” Mai goes on to say, “There are a huge amount of myths about eyes, so it can be really helpful to talk to us and really understand what’s going on with your health. A lot of people think that if they have astigmatism, it means that they can’t wear contact lenses and that is just not the case. There are many options and lens designs which we can explore together”.
To further ensure that every patient at FINLAY is treated as an individual, the staff in store aim to deliver a personalised handover between the Optometrist at the end of a patient’s sight test and the dispensing staff on the shop floor. “We don’t want patients to feel that all of the trust they’ve put into the Optometrist is then lost on the dispensing staff. All of the salient points discussed between the patient and the Optometrist are communicated with the dispensing staff, meaning that they can chat through your lens options, suitable frames and how long things take, all in more detail."
To see more of what Mai gets up to outside of optometry follow her on instagram @maigornall