If you haven’t paid much attention to the sunglasses industry before, you may not have realized that many of the most popular brands are actually owned by conglomerates. This makes it tough to find independent sunglasses brands.
Luxottica is the biggest name in the business. The Italian company owns household names Ray-Ban and Persol, and manufactures sunglasses for other brands including Prada and Chanel. If you’re interested and have a spare 20 minutes to hand (it’s a long article), The Guardian published a fascinating article about the situation.
While this isn’t a bad thing and we love many of the sunglasses Luxottica produces, there are also plenty of independent sunglasses brands out there creating fantastic looking, high-quality frames. They may not always be as easy to get a hold of, but searching them out can be well worth the effort.
Here are some great independent brands from the U.S., Europe, and the rest of the world.
U.S. Independent Sunglasses Brands
Warby Parker is probably the most well-known of the brands on this list, at least in the U.S. The company started back in 2010 with an online-only distribution model although it now has brick and mortar stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. The company makes quality glasses that don’t break the bank. The designs come in at the formal end of the scale with plenty of solid colors, tortoise, and classic shapes. The Antique Shade Fade Fletcher design pictured above is a particular favorite of ours. Check out the full collection at the link below.
Garret Leight is a California-based sunglasses brand that was destined for success from the moment it made its first pair of shades. This is because the founder is actually the son of Larry Leight, the founder of iconic eyewear brand Oliver Peoples. Back in 2012, Leight (the younger one, keep up) told GQ that he wants his glasses to compliment people’s existing styles.
illesteva produces sunglasses that are designed in New York and hand-made in Italy. They have a beautiful selection of unique modern designs that are well worth checking out in full. For those after a frame that will make them stand out, we reckon the brand’s gold PCH sunglasses with brown gradient lens (above) are a real winner. What’s more, despite being based in the U.S. the company offers free worldwide shipping.
9Five was formed in 2009 and produces luxury sunnies inspired by skatewear. This ethos has led to the brand creating some exceptional frames including the 9Five Kingpin black and gold glasses (above).
Krewe is a New Orleans based sunglasses company that creates frames inspired by culture. The company produces glasses in small batches and guarantees them by offering a free second pair if your first pair breaks. For its fall 2019 collection, the brand teamed up with Billy Reid to create six designs it says transcend generations. We’re big fans of the aviator-inspired Court frame from this collection, especially in the sweet tea colorway (pictured).
European Independent Sunglasses Brands
Cutler and Gross
Cutler and Gross was founded in 1969 in London. The brand offers a wonderful selection of retro eyewear inspired by the time and the city of its founding (just check out the shades in the picture above for a perfect example). The glasses are all handmade and high-quality, which means they can be expensive. However, if your looking for a pair of unique sixties or seventies styled shades, there aren’t many better options. Cutler and Gross has also begun making frames for fellow British brand Paul Smith, a perfectly suited collaboration.
Cubitts is a British sunglasses band established in London in 2012. Each pair of glasses is meticulously made by hand and goes through multiple stages before it’s ready to be worn. All frames are made from either acetate, metal, gold, or horn (gold and horn glasses are made to measure). The brand produces a good selection of styles, although we particularly enjoy the John Lennon style Guilford frames pictured above.
Ace and Tate
Ace and Tate is a dutch frame maker that sells thoughtfully designed glasses directly to the consumer. They have a good selection of frames, from your standard fare through to more experimental designs. Anyone wanting to make a statement with their next pair of glasses could do worse than choosing the matte black Elton frames pictures above.
Rigards makes handmade glasses from materials including buffalo horn, copper, and wood. Their frames are unlike pretty much anything else out there. Whether this is a good thing will depend on how experimental you are willing to go with your eyewear choices. The company has won plenty of design awards for its frames and collaborated with the likes of Ziggy Chen and Uma Wang. If the solid wood “Le Specs” frame pictured above is something you’d be interested in, check out what else the brand has to offer at the link below.
Mykita is a Berlin-based sunglasses brand that manufactures and hand assembles all its frames. The brand has been around since 2003 and produces a variety of shapes made from steel and acetate. The high-quality and labor-intensive manufacturing process means Mykita sunglasses can be expensive.
Independent Brands from the Rest of the World
Pared is an Australian company that creates frames based on a philosophy of pared-back design. The frames are made from acetate and the lens come from either Carl Zeiss or quality Japanese suppliers. Considering the company’s belief in keeping things simple, we think it’s only right that we choose the Young and Old frame in black (above) as our favorite from the current lineup.
Muzik eyewear is a Korean sunglasses brand that was founded in 2013. Since then its glasses have become popular with K-pop stars and regular people alike. The brand creates modern, on-trend designs and offers international shipping through its website. Check them out at the link below.