As a writer, I get a lot of press releases. A lot. And of varying quality.
Many of these are linked to the various awareness days that pepper the year. You know the sort of thing: Mental Health Awareness Week, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, International Talk Like A Pirate Day.*
Wednesday 27th June 2018 is International Sunglasses Day so I’ve been dutifully waiting for the onslaught of related press releases – to no avail.
As yet, nothing has arrived. Not a single email about sunglasses, whether linked to the day’s actual purpose of promoting the importance of wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays or simply hawking a new range.
Most odd. I’m wondering if something is actually wrong with my Inbox.
The world’s most popular sunglasses brand is, unsurprisingly, Ray-Ban. In 2016, they commanded 5 per cent of the global eye wear market while in 2017, parent company Luxottica made an enormous 9.16 million euros in net sales. Having spent a summer seeing them everywhere (including my own face), last September I wrote a reflection on what makes them so popular.
Now I’m wondering if we’ve hit peak Ray-Ban (prayban, maybe?!). Have they reached the point of ubiquity where they lose all their cool? Or has that moment already long past? Maybe I’m alone feeling a bit, well, bored by them.
If you’re looking for an alternative, there are some great ethical brands whose sunglasses not only look good but do good. Here are four options:
Around the time of Glastonbury, there was a lot of buzz in the media about inflatable flamingos being the must-have accessory of the summer. Having spent the last few months scrolling through endless holiday snaps on Facebook and Instagram while impatiently waiting for my late September getaway to roll around, I can confirm that I’ve seen a couple – but nowhere near as many as pairs of Ray-Ban sunglasses.
Home or away, man or woman, couple or single, young or old, I’ve lost count of the number of shades I’ve seen with the distinctive logo in the top left corner. From a friend ordering some of Ray-Ban Aviators customised with her name back at the beginning of May to my beloved red Ray-Ban Clubmasters just unpacked and sitting on my dresser, I’ve encountered them almost as regularly as the ubiquitous summertime adverts for cheap lager.
In the shades
There are now more options for sunnies than ever. Newcomers to the market such as Pala, who support vision projects in Africa through their sales, and Dick Moby, handmade from bio and recycled acetate, cater for the growing number of ethically conscious consumers. Fashion magazines publicise high end firms such as Cutler and Gross as the brand du jour, and I get no end of compliments on my Italia Independent exclusives.
Other companies may have their moment in the sun (remember the popularity of Oakley shades in the nineties?) but still Ray-Ban reign supreme in the world of sunglasses, almost as synonymous as Hoover and vacuum cleaner. According to data from Euromonitor International, in 2016 they were the largest sunglasses brand and commanded 5 percent of the global of the global eye wear market. In 2014, they generated an enormous 2.065 billion euros for their owners Luxottica, an Italian firm who also operate Oakley, Oliver Peoples and pretty much every designer sunglasses range that you can name, including Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, DKNY and Versace.
What is it about Ray-Ban that makes them so popular?
It’s partly down to Luxottica’s management since they took over the company in 1999. They changed the manufacturing process, using modern eyewear technology and vastly improving quality, and rebranded Ray-Ban as a luxury product, all without losing the aesthetics for which the firm was known.
There are other factors too. The widespread ownership of sunglasses helps. Opticians are always reminding us that they aren’t just a fashion item and it seems that we are taking notice, with rising awareness of the need for eye protection credited with boosting worldwide sales. Plus unlike other areas of apparel, sunglasses are purchased by men and women, with one UK survey by Mintel finding that men were almost twice as likely as women to buy designer shaded specs (20 percent compared to 11 percent).
Big Nephew & Niece modelling the beloved Thomas the Tank Engine sunnies, July 2009
In the shades: the enduring appeal of Ray-Ban sunglasses (aka why we all love Ray Bans)
Obligatory cute kid in sunnies pic
Our love of sunglasses often begins early in life. One summer my then three year old nephew couldn’t be parted from his Thomas the Tank Engine frames. Who doesn’t have a childhood photograph of themselves posing proudly in a pair?
Back then sunglasses have a fun, novelty value, but we soon grow to learn that they represent so much more. They are entry level designer goods, a status symbol that is neither too ostentatious nor breaks the bank – particularly if justified on cost-per-wear basis as my friend and I did with her customised Aviators.
The cool factor
Of course no discussion of sunglasses, particularly Ray-Ban, would be complete without reference to the word ‘cool’. Earlier this year, Scrivens Opticians & Hearing Centre commissioned a report which found that over half of the 2,000 British adults questioned considered sunglasses to be the coolest fashion accessory – and a massive two-thirds believed that sunglasses made wearers look instantly more stylish!
Again Ray-Ban dominate these notions of cool. Also earlier this year, in a GlobalWedIndex survey of over 28,000 Internet users aged 16-64, Ray-Ban were voted the coolest luxury brand, with almost 40 percent choosing them over the other sixteen options that included Chanel and Armani.
This perception has developed over the course of the company’s almost ninety year history, encouraged by the many iconic sunglasses wearers who have donned one kind of Ray-Ban or another, including Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Tom Cruise in Top Gun. With the Jackie Ohh, Ray-Ban even created a design for another legendary sunglasses wearer, Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
With this level of pedigree, it’s perhaps unsurprising that we are so heavily drawn to Ray-Ban. A practical purpose, relatively accessible price point and the cachet of a designer brand meets the Hollywood dream factory and fantasy world of the world’s most stylish stars. No wonder we’re loyal fans of the Ray Ban Aviator, Ray Ban Clubmaster, Ray Ban Wayfarer and more: Ray-Ban put all other sunglasses brands in the shade.
While the sun shone down gloriously on London this Tuesday, I spent the day in the giant greenhouse that is Kensington Olympia. I was there for a trade show featuring lots (and I mean *lots*) of companies looking for new retail outlets; imagine the Clothes Show or the Ideal Home exhibition without being able to buy any of the goods. This is probably a good thing as I wanted so much, from sea shell earrings to several different kinds of bag to some oversize pink earrings!
Window shopping opportunities aside, I was there on a specific mission.
In my fashion and beauty writing, I’m committed to featuring eco, ethical and sustainable firms as much as I possibly can. In particular, I want to highlight the many innovative and stylish small brands working in this area – brands that don’t have huge publicity budgets but deserve exposure.
At Olympia, I was looking for companies doing good work in terms of conscious consumption so that I could share them with you.
Boy did I find some! Below I’ve detailed my highlights in five categories (beauty, candles, fashion, jewellery and other). I hope that you like their look, and their ethos, as much as I did. Visit their websites, follow them on social media (check out my following lists on Twitter and Instagram if you like) and next time you’re making a purchase, consider buying from one of them.
‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’ Lao Tzu
Do you have any brands that you like to recommend? Tell me about them! You can comment below. Plus if you enjoyed reading this post, please do tell others about it on social media – it really helps! Sharing buttons are also below.
Natural, organic handcrafted and vegan friendly, never animal tested, ethically sourced and eco-friendly handmade products in recyclable packaging. Also free from SLS, parabens, synthetic fragrance, petroleum and mineral oils [That’s quite a list!].
Small batches of handcrafted botanical skincare and essential oils candles made using completely natural and organic ingredients [These aren’t a new discovery – I love their soap, as I mentioned last week – but they definitely warrant a mention].
Each product is created by handicraft charity units or World Fair Trade Organization producer groups in Nepal, giving local people an income in line with fair trade principles along with a continually developing commitment to minimising environmental impact as much as possible.
Focused on fair trading and supporting Columbian artisans, particularly women with no other employment options, while also using suppliers certified by the Administrative Department of the Environment in Columbia.
Just Trade collaborates directly with eight groups of artisans in Peru, Ecuador and India to create handmade jewellery that is fairly traded and crafted from locally-sourced and ethical materials where possible.
The Revival Collection of home accessories is made using off-cuts from the fast fashion t-shirt industry that are saved, sorted, shredded, woven and then reused by Indian families working in good conditions.
Seedballs are designed to encourage bees and butterflies by making it easier for everyone to grow either wildflowers or herbs or salad. They’ve been designed specifically for a north eastern European climate and each one containing of these British made balls contains a mini ecosystem of seeds, clay, peat-free compost and a little chilli powder to deter predators! This is a new concept in the UK but seed balls have been used in ecological restoration projects around the world.