There was a time -- back in the late ‘90s and early aughts -- when rockin’ a pair of blatantly designer sunglasses—you know, with massive Gucci/Chanel/Versace/[insert name of major design house here] logos in plain view—was the thing. Girls would even wear their shades perched atop their heads indoors since flashy designer emblems were the ultimate in status, making the sunglasses statement accessories in their own right.
But somewhere a long the way, the tastemakers and trendsetters started eschewing sunnies created by established design houses for logo-less, but impact-making styles by indie brands you might not have even heard of -- Quay Australia or Gentle Monster, anyone?
Is it logo-mania fatigue? Or maybe with the proliferation of street style, we’re constantly on the hunt for the new and unexpected. Or perhaps savvy consumers are focusing on quality pieces from companies that specialize in eyewear design and production. Or, hey, we’re all just sartorially ADD and want an arsenal of sunglass style options to choose from, which means accessible price points are key. (Hey, a few of these celeb-approved brands offer sunglasses for less than $50 a pair. True story.)
“I believe the consumer is looking for something special and different,” said Patty Perreira, co-founder of Barton Perriera, which counts Angelina Jolie and David Beckham as fans. “They are seeking to discover brands they personally connect with.”
And interestingly enough, a number of these oft-photographed stars are wearing indie brands and styles on their own time, too.
“The larger and more established brands give the ‘wow’ factor with big budget campaigns and paid high profile faces of the brand,” explains Linda Hammond, co-founder Quay Australia, worn by best dressed bold names like Beyoncé and Diane Kruger. “However, we have many high profile celebrity fans that are not paid to wear or promote the brand and are just genuine supporters.”
In the same vein as TOMS and Warby Parker, a significant number of the newbie brands also have philanthropic objectives and donate a portion of sales to charities that speak to the brand’s DNA. New York-based Wild Soul even let’s customers choose from a selection of non-profits to support with a purchase.
The sunglasses market has become even more diverse with labels offering aesthetic, ethical and budget-related draws. To help you navigate the field, click through to learn about 11 indie sunglass brands you need to know right now.
Founded by Oliver Peoples veterans Patty Perreira, Bill Barton and Tim Cadiente, Barton Perreira prides itself in highbrow, arty influences and classic styles with a twist. No big shiny logos or crazy too-trendy prints here—just timeless shapes (like an ultra-flattering cat eye) and high quality handmade shades, courtesy of skilled artisans in Japan. No wonder Rihanna, and a whole lot of street style stars, are fans. Prices range from $395 to $525.
This Korean label has been quickly embraced by paparazzi-attracting sunglass-aficionados like Miranda Kerr and Jessica Alba (seriously, how many pairs do you think these girls own between the two of them?). The culty, hard-to-find label reworks the classics with oversize silhouettes, hard angles, and super rad print and color mixes. You might have to book yourself a flight to South Korea to hunt down the modern, but vintage-inspired styles, or order via the Gentle Monster website. Just make sure you have your currency calculator and Google Translate ready to go Prices start around $200.
While the brand’s name, Komono, means “small things” in Japanese, the label itself is the brainchild of Belgian duo Anton Janssens and Raf Maes. The brand’s “retro-futuro” aesthetic updates traditional styles with futuristic details, like color-blocking and exaggerated shapes. Plus, with price points under $100, you could buy more than one pair. Pricing runs from $59.95 to $99.95.
Le Specs originally found fame in the ‘80s for its “Euro-chic” appeal and the Aussie label is on the radar again thanks to a 2006 relaunch. The line offers cool and interesting shapes—most of which were created from original frame molds from the ‘80s— and inspired color play that speaks to envelope-pushing style stars, like, Beyoncé, Solange and Lady Gaga. The very accessible price point—starting at $49.95—really speaks to the rest of us.
Aside from hot, hot thespians and UGG boots, Australia should also be famous for chic, accessible sunglasses brands. (Kind of makes sense considering the country’s sunny beaches and surf babes galore, right?) Sydney-based Local Supply is the most recent import—eight of its colorfully framed and reflective-lensed wayfarer styles are now available exclusively at Opening Ceremony for $65 each.
Cara Delevingne, Gwen Stefani, and Shay Mitchell (a.k.a. Pretty Little Liars’ Emily Fields) are big fans of this family-owned and Melbourne-based sunglasses line. On top of a wide array of fun and funky shapes, colors, and prints, the sunnies are ridiculously affordable—topping out at just $45 a pair. Apparently even celebrities can’t resist a good deal.
This Malibu-based company offers futuristic shades in a range of shapes and colors that are all handcrafted in Japan and Italy. The oversized, slightly cat-eyed S6s in bright red are especially fun. The luxury brand also emphasizes a commitment to the local community and the arts— it donates a percentage of sales to the Malibu Boys and Girls club. Pricing ranges from $189 to $530.
This stylish and functional line of sunnies was originally founded in the late ‘70s and quickly gained fame amongst the sporty, let’s-go-skiing-in-Chamonix types -- not to mention those “cool yuppies,” per the brand’s website (Oxymoron? Just kidding). Fast forward to 2011 when the brand of vibrantly hued and compact foldable shades re-launched to focus on the hipster-cool ski and surfer crowds. And adding to the brand’s sporty-cool factor, Sunpocket has collaborated with Colette, Opening Ceremony and & Other Stories on capsule collections. Pricing ranges from $103 to $215.
Thierry Lasry’s designs are just as famous for their ultra-sexy, modern aesthetic (Miley Cyrus and Rihanna are fans) as they are for the fairly suggestive monikers given to each style. There's the "Nudity," an oversize wayfarer, the "Orgasmy," a cat eye, the geek-chic round "Sobriety" and, of course, the thick, transparent-framed "Sexxxy." (Yes, with three Xs.) The Parisian line is available at the coolest of cool shops from homegrown Colette to Dover Street Market to Opening Ceremony to Shopbop. Pricing ranges from $385 to $525.
This brand just tapped power influencer and The City alum Olivia Palermo to design a capsule collection of sunglasses (and channel her selling power to drive sales). Which makes sense considering that influential celebs—from Jessica Alba to Alessandra Ambrosio—are snapped on the reg sporting the line’s sleek sunnies. The San Francisco-based company prides itself on a universally flattering shape (sort of wayfarer-eseque), high quality materials and a commitment to giving back to the community. For every pair sold, the brand donates $10 toward a related education program. Pricing ranges from $180 to $250 per pair.
Founded in 2012 by two Emory College grads, Wild Soul brings two near-and-dear philosophies together: fashion and philanthropy. On the fashion front, each of the four men’s and women’s edgy styles is named after a wild animal (e.g. the straight-across Blue Elephant and the brow-line Lion) and comes in a variety of frames—basic black, tortoise shell, etc. On the feel-good front, you can choose from a selection of charities (from environmental to artistic) to contribute $5 from the $100 per pair price. The brand also offers the option of adding sunglass insurance to your shopping cart. A pretty cool idea considering how easy it is to sit on/drop/utterly destroy a shiny new pair of sunnies.