Sunglasses: A huge industry marked by giant licensing deals, a steady stream of brand collaborations, and lots of advertising dollars spent seasonally. In the luxury sector in particular, eyewear is one of the currencies of exchange, generating sales that often exceed ready-to-wear, shoes and bags. Why? Because sunglasses cost less than other categories, but still have the same cachet. They are an excellent gateway into the brand’s universe. And because they sit on the most visible part of your body, they’re able to convey status instantly.
Here’s an example: Two months before I graduated from high school, I saw an ad for one of the best sunglasses I’ve ever seen from a brand I absolutely respected. It was Prada, and I wanted to celebrate my impending debut ceremony by buying this exact pair. So a week before I wore my cap and robe, after saving every dollar that came my way, my best friend and I visited the store on Madison Avenue (this was before e-commerce was a thing ), where I showed the salesman at the counter a crumpled picture that I tore off Details magazine. She stocked wraparound frames with thin titanium rims and large black temples, and without hesitation, I purchased my first luxury item. I still remember the cost: $210. That’s a huge sum for a high school student today, let alone back then. But it was completely worth it. Not only did I get Oh and aah of my classmates on graduation day, I felt incredibly glamorous wearing them.
Yes, I was initially attracted by these sunglasses because they were from Prada, but I am above all an informed buyer; I don’t let myself be influenced that easily. I’ve always understood that quality (acetate, titanium, or gold frames are tops for frames; and UV-blocking polycarbonate, a plastic that provides the greatest clarity, for lenses) is even more important. than the prestige conferred by certain logos. And the best sunglasses brands understand this sentiment. They go to great lengths to offer Class A products to boast their prowess in hopes of catching consumers’ attention.
So if you want to know who to trust, take a look at the list of names – from direct-to-consumer retailers to independent eyewear brands to major fashion brands – that are worth your hard-earned dollar. .
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The DTC darling and the envy of investors worldwide has earned its reputation as the benchmark digital disruptor by skimping on the details when it comes to its nuances.
Akila wants you to look ahead. The Los Angeles-based label is famous for its use of malleable, scratch-resistant and biodegradable materials made from plant-derived cellulose acetate, which are then shaped into bold and assertive silhouettes, in particular the eye of cat.
Oakley isn’t just about shameless wraparound shades anymore (although these offer just the right amount of over-the-top punch for this era of maximalist menswear). The brand’s classic styles, like the Frogskins you see here, are also starting to get really strong right now.
Ray-Ban is the first and last name when it comes to sunglasses, with the catalog of now iconic styles to back it up. If the Wayfarers were good enough for Tom Cruise in Risky businessthey are certainly good enough for you now.
Raen may not have the long history of some of the other brands on this list – it started in 2008 – but the brand still delivers timeless style in spades. Inspired by surf culture, the Californian company offers handmade sunglasses that cost a lot less than expected.
Carrera has been making its iconic racing-inspired sunglasses since the 1950s, and a few decades later it received the ultimate seal of approval: acquisition by Safilo, one of the biggest names in the business.
Back to the Future is the best way to describe Retrosuperfuture. Founded in the early 2000s, the brand has made a name for itself offering acetate sunglasses in a full range of electric colors, all mounted on frames that nod to the past, but are inherently avant-garde.
Founded by Greg Krajecki, Gray Ant’s designs are a study in dualities: big and light, minimal and maximal, innovation and nostalgia.
One of the few major brands of sunglasses in the United States of America, Randolph produces its iconic aviators – built to military specifications, so you know they’re tough as nails – in Massachusetts using a process which takes 200 steps. Oh, also, the president wears them. So that’s a decent endorsement.
Illesteva runs a small but mighty operation in SoHo, New York. Founded in 2010 by Daniel Silberman, the brand has around fifty employees in total, all of whom are committed to offering exceptional frames and lenses without breaking the bank. And if that doesn’t convince you, know that Bey and Daniel Craig are fans.
A beach staple, Maui Jim makes sunglasses up to the rigors – uh, well, maybe not rigors— to spend the whole day under a blazing sun. Polarized lenses and super lightweight materials are just a few of the features that will keep your eyes happy all summer long (and fall, winter and spring).
Founded in 2009 by twin sisters Corianna and Brianna Dotson, Coco and Breezy has produced sunglasses in collaboration with Hershey’s and Ciroc, and even made some for the late Grand Prince. If there is a stronger cosign, I’m not sure what it is.
Moscot has been in the sunglasses game for a minute now (and by a minute I mean over a century), and the fifth generation of Moscot family members are currently working in the company. Any label that inspires this level of loyalty is worth checking out.
Both weird and wonderful, Gentle Monster is a Korean brand founded in 2011 that constantly pushes the boundaries of design. Its collections celebrate freedom of expression, nod to futurism and, quite simply, look cool.
Ferragamo is a Milan-based brand that releases styles year after year that, like its parent city, are rich, slightly industrial and incredibly sexy.
A krewe, in New Orleans culture, is a group of people who band together to parade during Mardi Gras season. And that’s exactly what Krewe (née Krewe du Optic), the brand, celebrates with its vintage frames inspired by the folks at the Big Easy, iconic landmarks and lively vibe.
Garrett Leight honestly comes from the sunglasses business. Son of Larry Leight, the founder of Oliver Peoples, Garrett launched his own eponymous brand in 2011 after learning the ropes for his father’s company, and today makes some of the best sunglasses around.
Very few authentic fashion brands have managed to become such a solid resource for sunglasses as Tom Ford. It helps that the designer himself is rarely seen without a pair these days and is his best brand ambassador.
Saint Laurent, a brand that’s pretty much the master and commander of skinny fits under creative director Anthony Vaccarello, of course offers sunglasses that stay true to its cool aesthetic.
From nylon bags and Saffiano leather suitcases to some of the best runways in history, Prada always brings the directionality, elegance and timelessness that are the foundations of luxury fashion. The same could be said of his glasses.
Persol is the ultimate in Italian luxury sunglasses. The brand had been a Steve McQueen favorite since the king of cool showed up on the set of The Thomas Crown Affair wearing a pair of the brand’s 714 shades (a style that now bears his name).
You can always count on Off-White, founded by Virgil Abloh, to showcase cutting-edge industrial design – check out those sharp angles, not to mention the chain-link temple pieces.
For over 40 years, Graham Cutler and Tony Gross have let their dynamic designs speak for themselves. In an industry that values prominent branding, the duo eschewed logos altogether, instead focusing on silhouettes and material quality, and amassed a deeply loyal fan base along the way.
Oliver Peoples sunglasses make you think of sunny California days and the seemingly endless opportunities of a summer long weekend. Is there a better endorsement than that (apart from, perhaps, a particularly memorable American psycho to scream)?
Big, bold and (sometimes more) a bit quirky? You can always count on Gucci to deliver the goods.
Before Linda Farrow launched her eponymous label in the 70s, sunglasses stuck to a classic mold. As a rule breaker, she sought to push boundaries, becoming one of the first designers to truly dive into the realm of the avant-garde. Farrow soon caught the eye of kindred spirits like Yoko Ono, Balenciaga and Sonia Rykiel, the latter two collaborating with the sunglasses maven on fashion-forward pieces that still inspire today.
If you want to go wild with your glasses a bit while staying in “truly wearable” territory, Jacques Marie Mage is the name to know. The brand makes its sunglasses in Japan in small batches, working on every detail to ensure your pair is an investment that lasts.
Matsuda takes the art of making sunglasses very seriously. In its workshops in Sabae, Japan, highly skilled craftsmen are employed to craft detailed frames and lenses that require approximately 250 steps.
Kuboraum delights in experimentation; it breathes the air of the avant-garde. Founders Livio Graziottin and Sergio Eusebi, both Berliners, also wanted their designs to act as masks, helping wearers create an identity that perhaps revealed more than it concealed. For this reason, no detail is too small and no finishing touch is less important than another.
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