Between music festival season, long weekends and much-needed vacations, we've been working on our summer look and what signature pieces it'll entail. A necessity, of course, is a solid pair of sunglasses — because one, people always look good wearing them, and two, UV protection is very important for your eyeballs. If you're tired of turning to the same ol' classic brands or can't afford to shell out hundreds of dollars for a designer pair, there are plenty of new, up-and-coming labels with very cool, affordable styles to choose from. Read on to learn more about six breakout sunglasses brands for you to stock up on and help you stand out this season.
For Jonathan Lee, creating sunglasses is in his blood. His mother started a wholesale sunglasses company over three decades ago, so Lee's earliest memories have always involved shades. "Ever since I can remember I've wanted to start a sunglasses brand, but it was a matter of figuring out what I wanted the brand to be," says Lee. After graduating college and spending a few years working for the family business, Lee launched Bonnie Clyde almost a year ago.
Based in downtown Los Angeles, he's constantly inspired by the city's party scene and music festival culture, which is evident in the label's experimental frames and colorful lenses. Among the collection, which is priced between $60 and $90, Lee says the hexagonal "Figueroa" frames have been a favorite since launch, and "Pico"'s round sunglasses with sharp details are catching fire with musicians. Lee hopes the "Grand" will gain popularity, too, with its round lenses juxtaposed with exaggerated cat-eye metal frames.
Spotting Gigi or Bella Hadid without a pair of sunglasses is a rarity, and according to Alana Hadid, it runs in the family. "We thought that eyewear was perfect for us," she says. "I have a pretty extensive eyewear collection, so does my dad. Pretty much everyone in my family is photographed in sunglasses, like, 24 hours a day." The older half-sister teamed up with her older sister Marielle and dad Mohamed to launch Hadid Eyewear, a collection of classic but fashion-forward sunglasses with names inspired by travel, that ring in under $200.
Though Hadid has had experience as a stylist, personal shopper and a designer, eyewear was a new venture. "I think it's fun because I have fresh eyes. There aren't any rules for me," she says. Though she took the reins on the collection's designs, she made sure to get feedback from her dad — his contribution is the "Captain," an optical frame with clip-on sunglass lenses — along with plenty of product testing with her fashion-savvy family, making sure the styles and fit were just right. While the debut collection is tightly edited for now, expect even more styles to drop later this summer.
Roberi & Fraud
With years of experience consulting for high-end brands and retailers, Dubai-based Ali Mehrdad and Stefan Foster always wanted to start their own brand. And because eyewear is one of the least saturated markets, the duo set off to launch a collection of sunglasses under the name Roberi & Fraud, inspired by the hilarious Joanne the Scammer. Well before the brand's official launch at the end of April, the debut collection of '90s-style, under-$200 frames have already garnered an "It" model following, including Kendall Jenner, Duckie Thot, Bella and Gigi Hadid, as well as Hanne Gaby Odiele and Anna Ewers, who attended the brand's intimate launch dinner in Paris.
To top things off, Merhdad and Foster just started working on Roberi & Fraud a little more than six months ago. Industry peers told them it would take at least two years to launch an eyewear line, as samples could take as long as six months to produce. But the two hit the ground running — or sprinting, rather — teaming up with a Hong Kong factory (and an English school translator) to retrieve their first samples in only three weeks. "We have zero patience," says Merhdad. "There's not a right time to do something. That's one of the things we learned through consulting. We jumped right into it."
Smoke x Mirrors
David Shabtai and Roi Ironi, cousins and co-founders of Smoke x Mirrors, believe music and sunglasses are synonymous, which is why their twice-yearly collections are always inspired by different musical genres or movements, with some of the frames named after song titles.
Shabtai and Ironi's obsession with eyewear started young from collecting vintage pieces. The two launched Smoke x Mirrors in 2015 after throwing around sketches and ideas for eyewear while they worked for Shabtai's father, who runs a jewelry line. Since then, they've been designing for their brand in New York City and having the pieces handmade in France. "We really took a look at the eyewear industry in general and saw that it's a licensing-dominated business," says Shabtai. "There's very little innovation, very little design, so we wanted to approach eyewear as a means for fashion innovation."
The latest collection from Smoke x Mirrors includes six geometric-style pieces called "Geo" which are inspired by the glam rock era. Since the brand specializes in super-lightweight mixed materials, these new frames (which retail for $350) are made of stainless steel and cellulose acetate, which, according to Shabtai, contains the most air content so they're light as air on the wearer's face.
Though Sydney-based brand Sunday Somewhere has been around since 2011, its sunglasses didn't really take off in the U.S. until 2014. "The design that's uniquely Sunday Somehwere is contemporary and clean lines," says Cameron Parker, who manages marketing for the brand. "We're not the brand with big logos. Our fans fall in love with the design, color and on-trend lenses." Creative Director Dave Allison is always influenced by his travels when designing for Sunday Somewhere, which is why these sunglasses are perfect for your next vacation.
Now, the label is a celebrity favorite — Beyoncé being one of its biggest fans — which Parker says is not a result of paid placements. "We don't have the budget to do that. A celebrity or stylist probably picks it up from a showroom, so for us as a brand, we cross our fingers and wait to see where they end up," says Parker. "Beyoncé has been wearing Sunday Somewhere for well over a year." Parker even tips that Jay Z has gotten into his wife's collection to wear the brand's "Wilson" frames with clip-on "Jo" lenses.
Alice + Olivia
For as long as designer Stacey Bendet has been designing for her label Alice + Olivia, she's been known to wear oversized sunglasses — so much so that her well-known look has been coined "Stace Face." Finally the designer is banking on her signature accessory with a new line of sunnies, which launched in February. "Eyewear is a major component of my personal style, so designing my first collection was a natural progression for my brand," says Bendet.
Entirely new to the design process, Bendet teamed up with Eponym for the debut collection, which consists of oversized frames in a slew of silhouettes and colors. As for Bendet's favorites? Catch her wearing the Stacey frames adorned with Swarovski crystals or the Madison sunglasses with floral gemstones attached.