The eyewear brand striving for diversity and inclusion in the fashion industry

·3-min read
Photo credit: Arne Zacher
Photo credit: Arne Zacher

Few people would deny that the fashion industry has a diversity problem, but many probably don’t understand quite the scale of it, and the great lack of inclusion that some marginalised communities face when they are shopping. One issue that has not been fully addressed by fashion brands in the past, and which is the focus of newly launched label Reframd, is regarding how eyewear is designed.

Co-founders Ackeem Ngwenya and Shariff Vreugd decided to tackle a problem they have faced their entire lives – that they could never find glasses which fitted their face shape. The pair realised that their personal frustration was because most eyewear is designed with Caucasian nasal features in mind, meaning narrow and high nasal bridges. Because of this, people with low and wide nasal bridges (primarily Black people and people of East Asian descent) are forced to wear ill-fitting products.

Photo credit: Arne Zacher
Photo credit: Arne Zacher

“The most frustrating thing was that my nose was not made for the majority of glasses. At the time, I didn't realise that there was nothing wrong with my nose, but that actually the products themselves were unsuitable,” Ngwenya says, adding that the experience made him feel “not valued and unseen”.

“Reframd addresses this problem by designing sunglasses that fit people and not the other way around. These are frames designed to fit every person instead of just one singular beauty standard.”

The brand uses a frame algorithm coupled with a high-end nylon 3D printing process to digitally craft a perfect fit for each wearer’s unique face geometry, meaning that each style is created with that particular face shape in mind, making the product as inclusive as possible. And, even though each design is custom-fit, Reframd is also committed to keeping the prices down to ensure that they can be remain available to all. The company is doing this by running under a direct-to-consumer model, and by launching slowly and taking on feedback as they go.

“The biggest lesson for us is that perfection is the enemy of progress,” Ngwenya says. “Waiting to release a perfect product is a waste of time and resources. So, we are launching, getting market feedback and improving on the product based on what we hear.”

Photo credit: Arne Zacher
Photo credit: Arne Zacher

The company is currently raising money on Kickstarter, having caught the attention of design experts, and is hoping to make real strides for change in the fashion industry with a product that doesn’t eliminate anybody. Unfortunately, Ngwenya feels that it is up to businesses like his to create change, rather than expecting the industry to do it from within.

“I don’t think the eyewear industry by itself will change, it has no incentive to, at least not as long as most major brands are controlled by one entity. Lasting change requires outsider brands such as ours to bring in new perspectives and not do things as usual.”

Photo credit: Arne Zacher
Photo credit: Arne Zacher

For wider change to take place in the industry as a whole, Ngwenya says it is all down to being more inclusive in those top jobs.

“There needs to be a diversity of voices and inputs at different departments of the fashion industry, particularly in positions of power,” he says. “Generally, we all have biases, and if all the people around us have similar biases and there is no one to challenge those biases, we keep on making the same mistakes that are at the expense of or belittle others. We can address our blind spots by embracing diverse points of view.”

Ultimately, the designer wants to be hopeful that more awareness around diversity might lead to meaningful change.

“One can see discussions around inclusive representation and participation in different sectors of society; whether this will lead to long-lasting change is anyone’s guess. But I would like to be optimistic.”

You can donate to Reframd's Kickstarter campaign here, and can discover more about the label here.

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