A new London-based brand is bringing a green twist to the eyewear industry. Wires Glasses, founded in 2016 by designer Yair Neuman, sells glasses created from a single piece of stainless steel wire and interchangeable, 3D printed lenses. The aim of the brand is to reduce waste and extend the product’s lifecycle, as consumers don’t need to buy a new pair of glasses if they want to change their look.
Neuman was inspired by ancient African wire artistry when designing the prototype. Soon, model, actress and campaigner for sustainable fashion Lily Cole, who’s an old friend of Neuman, joined the business. The first collection, Wires 1.0, was released in 2017, handcrafted by a small team in Zimbabwe.
The first eyewear frames were not able to fold in, however, so Neuman teamed up with experts in Italy to develop an internal mechanism called “the invisible hinge”, which is now patented by the company. The brand states that, thanks to this mechanism, its frames are virtually indestructible and could last a lifetime.
As more and more consumers look for sustainable alternatives when shopping for fashion, it didn’t take long for Wires to land an investor. Earlier this month, venture firm True Ventures announced it would invest an undisclosed amount to help the UK eyewear brand, which now employs six people. The list of companies backed by True Ventures includes Fitbit, Blue Bottle Coffee and Gradle.
As the branch launches its second collection, Neuman spoke to FashionUnited, sharing his plans for the brand’s trajectory.
How did the idea for modular glasses made from a single piece of wire come about?
”Before creating the first prototype for the collection, I was obsessed with wire and the possibilities it presents. Wire, unlike a flat surface, is something I see living between a 2D and a 3D world. It can be a flat signature or silhouette but also a complex deep structure. That summer day I left for the beach it made much more sense to wear a piece of wire around my head than anything else. So I bent down a frame and took a train to the airport.”
How did you realise your idea could become a succesful business?
”Wires started as an abstract idea but soon after creating the concept we dived into a phase of mechanical improvement and innovation. The result is a simplified version of an eyewear frame and the design is based on what’s needed to hold the lenses in the right place rather holding the maker’s logo. We’re seeing that, in an age where reducing material usage is a must, consumers are embracing objects that are made responsibly”.
It must be very exciting to be backed by True Ventures. What are the plans for the future?
”It certainly is, especially because they can bring so much experience and energy to the table. We're focusing on developing our ecommerce platform and forging partnerships with exclusive fashion boutiques in the US. As for future plans on the product side, we'll keep those up our sleeve for the time being”.
Wires Glasses offers a sustainable alternative in the eyewear market. Besides producing less waste, consumers can change their look without having to buy a whole new pair of glasses. Does the lack of sustainability in the fashion industry (and eyewear industry in particular) bother you?
”In spite of the efforts made by some industry heavyweights, sustainability isn't the norm yet in fashion. This does bother us, but it will take time for there to be a sea change. Bringing this discussion to our customers' attention is a core part of Wires' mission”.
Are there any plans to make the brand even more sustainable in the future? If so, what are you planning to do?
”Absolutely, sustainability is in the DNA of the brand. But you have to be realistic. For example, we'd love the brand to be zero waste but this isn't possible yet given how lenses are currently manufactured, for example cut out of sheets of material. We're looking forward to when 3D printing of lenses become more affordable and produced to a higher quality”.
The brand's idea is to extend the life cycle of glasses. But how resistant are the frames? They might look rather delicate for online shoppers who need to rely on pictures to make their purchase... How long would you say these frames last?
”The frame’s strength is in its flexibility. Just like thin trees withstand strong wind without breaking, the frame is designed to take impact and if the lenses clip off, all you need to do is clip them back on again. With no screw to go lose we hope the frame would last a lifetime if looked after properly”.
The first collection was handcrafted in Zimbabwe but the second one was made in Italy. Why the change?
”We'll be continuing to produce future collections in Zimbabwe but decided to produce the second collection in Italy because we required the expertise and precision of an established eyewear industry to create Wires 2.0 with its invisible hinge mechanism and other technical aspects.”
Any plans for a brick-and-mortar store? Or making the brand available at other retailers?
”Plans are afoot for Wires' popups before we consider the bricks-and-mortar route. We'll be announcing a collaboration with a prominent department store imminently!”
Wires 2.0, the collection released last week, features the new foldable frames, which received intriguing names like “Brexit”, “Money” and “Coward’s Choice”. The collection is available on the brand’s website and eyewear and design boutiques in London, Paris, New York and Amsterdam.
Pictures: Courtesy of Wires Glasses