On a corner of Longmarket Street at the city’s centre, the gleaming faqade of Mullers has retained virtually all of its Art Deco features.
Orner of Longmarket and Parliament streets, at the heart of the old city, Mullers is hidden away behind the finest surviving Art Deco shop front in Cape Town. Glossy black and silver chrome, it’s a flash of old-world glamour in a neighbourhood that could do with more of it. The shop is still owned by the family of Joseph Muller, who opened here in 1890. An immigrant from Germany’s Black Forest, this former jeweller and watchmaker was one of South Africa’s first opticians. Past customers, or patients as they might have been called, included Sir Alfred Milner (British high commissioner for South Africa and governor of the Cape Colony between 1897 and 1899 when the Anglo-Boer War broke out) and Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson (the last Governor of the Cape Colony, appointed in 1901). They would have been drawn to a premises that identified J Muller and Sons as optometrists to the Royal Navy Hospital and, most important, being British, as ‘Optometrists by Appointment’.
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While the original building dates from the late 19th century, the shop front was added in about 1920. Today, the mirrored interior with its period furniture creates a stylish backdrop for the high tech eyewear of the 21st century. It was from Mullers that Ray Ban sunglasses were first shown to Capetonians in the 1950s, beginning a tradition of bowing to contemporary fashion which continues today with top-of-the-range eyewear from brands such as Oliver Peoples, Prada and Paul Smith, amongst others. Yet, even in a fiercely competitive market, Mullers hasn’t strayed from its founder’s principle of providing ‘Eyewear you can trust’.
Anywhere else in the world, the interior of Mullers would be preserved in a museum of architectural history. The display cases, furniture and lighting are all original.