From sustainable specs to peepers that help people in need
As someone born in 1977, I felt like I’d been waiting my whole life for my generation’s equivalent of the legendary summer of ‘76. The hosepipe bans! The swarms of ladybirds! THE SUNTANS! Finally, and of course, terrifyingly (because, climate change) the summer of 2018 was one to rival it. Because I don’t remember having a real UK tan at the beginning of July before, nor another occasion when I didn’t wear a pair of enclosed shoes for four months straight.
In preparation for the possibility of a repeat performance this summer, you might be thinking of investing in a new pair of sunglasses. Or three. But before you head the the high street and buy something flimsy that won’t actually protect your eyes, the best news is that there are loads of new and under-the-radar brands making incredibly chic, great quality sunnies with designs to rival all the best known high end fashion houses. And some of them even have great environmental and ethical credentials, too. I’ve got five labels you need to know before splashing out on a new pair of peepers. You’re welcome.
Monokel Eyewear ‘Cleo’ sunglasses, €135 (monokel-eyewear.com)
Let’s start with my most complimented specs in my repertoire. You may recognise my orange Monokel sunglasses – which I bought at the wonderful Ruskin boutique in Whitstable – from one of their regular appearances on my Instagram feed. They’re sturdy and they always make me feel cool as hell. This Swedish brand concentrates on just 12 classic styles in various colours; sunglasses really are the item you can see as a long term investment since they aren’t so beholden to trends and don’t tend to go out of style unless you get a really outlandish style – my orange pair are still available to buy. The best thing about Monokel is that it is also a sustainable brand; it uses a plant-based acetate for the majority of its frames, as well as recycled acetate for its black frames.
MONC ‘Kallio’ sunglasses, £175 (monclondon.com)
Founded three years ago by Freddie Elbourne, MONC sunglasses are designed in London and hand-crafted in Italy, before being popped into a naturally tanned leather case made back in the capital. “I started MONC to champion the things that I value most as a designer,” says Elbourne. “Quality products designed well, which have transparent sourcing, whilst celebrating true craftsmanship and creating memories for the wearer.” The aesthetic is classic movie star, which makes each pair a cool timeless investment, and every style is named after a creative neighbourhood that is an area which celebrates craftsmanship (the best-seller is ‘London Fields’). But Elbourne’s focus is as much on the back story as it is on the stylish frames. “My mission here is to produce a sustainable range of products,” he continues. “We are going to start by investigating what we can use for this, whether it’s frames made from ocean plastics or biodegradable materials.” MONC is currently available exclusively on its own website and at one of the brand’s regular pop-up events.
Bailey Nelson ‘Reba’ sunglasses, £155 (baileynelson.co.uk)
I love the store experience at Bailey Nelson; with its cool tiles and big investment in succulents, it’s worth popping in for the Instagram opportunities alone. When I visited, not only did I have a brilliant eye test where I discovered that I have ‘better than 20-20 vision’ (air punch), but they let me bring my dog with me, and have just had their first in store dog event (they didn’t test my dog’s eyes though, just to be clear!). Bailey Nelson’s super-cool shades are really well priced for the quality, starting at £105 and going up to £155, and where often you’d be charged for extras, such as polarised, anti-glare and anti-scratch lenses, they come as standard with every pair. “By cutting out the middlemen, we’re able to provide premium glasses at fair prices,” say founders Nick Perry and Pete Winkle. “That’s a rare thing in the eyeglass industry, and one of the reasons we’re so big on celebrating uniqueness in others. We want our customers to feel like the best versions of themselves when they wear our frames.” All the acetate used is produced in Mazzucchelli, Italy, and is made by mixing organic pigment with a clear paste comprised of cotton powder and other natural ingredients. Perfect if you’re also keen on cutting down on your plastic.
Ace & Tate
Ace & Tate ‘Donna’ sunglasses, from £98 (aceandtate.com)
Another new addition to the London lunettes landscape is Ace & Tate, an Amsterdam-based label founded in 2013, which now has a snazzy shop in Covent Garden’s Earlham Street (the staff are great in here – my husband was persuaded to get some new specs well out of his comfort zone and they are the best glasses he’s ever had). In addition to plenty of classic silhouettes, head here for some proper trend-led styles, such as the oversized ‘Donna’ in mint or raspberry, and the ‘Capri’ cat eyes in poppy red. Keep an eye on the website for the refreshing use of older models, which is something to celebrate. It’s also worth mentioning the brilliant ‘Home Try-on’ service, where you can pick your four favourite styles and give them a whirl for five days at your leisure. Handy.
Jimmy Fairly ‘Sunshine’ sunglasses, €99 (jimmyfairly.com)
This French label has been around since 2011, but it’s only since last year that you’ve been able to get your hands on a pair in the UK at its new Regent Street store. The great thing about the glasses themselves, which are designed in Paris and assembled in France, is that they are incredibly affordable – £99 including prescription lenses (as with most of these brands, you can head here for opticals as well as sunnies). Jimmy Fairly also works with Restoring Vision, an international non-profit organisation which distributes glasses everywhere in the world to people in need, so with every purchase, you know you’re doing some good elsewhere, too.
A version of this article was originally published on The Pool