When does a pair of glasses become more than just, well, glasses?
Easy: When they give back to a person in need.
That’s exactly what happens when someone purchases a pair of frames or sunglasses from the new Vancouver-based brand Kingsley Eyewear.
Harbir Sian, the brand’s founder, chatted with Postmedia News about having a passion for eye care, battling big brands and creating glasses that give back.
Q. For those who aren’t familiar, what is Kingsley Eyewear?
A. Kingsley is a wonderful fusion of my passion for eye care, creativity, and a desire to give back. It is a local, independent eyewear brand that focuses not only on stylish frames, but also quality of vision and social responsibility. Kingsley Eyewear is named for the street I grew up on in England, Kingsley Road. The tag line for the brand is ‘Born in London, Raised in Vancouver, Inspired by the World.’ As such, each Kingsley frame is inspired by and named after a place in the world that I have visited or lived in.
Q. What makes the brand’s glasses different from the rest?
A. The eyewear industry is dominated by a couple of large corporations that own the rights to most of the fashion brands that consumers are familiar with. So while it seems as though people have a variety of options, they are really just buying from one or two of the major players. I think, these days, people are looking for more meaning and value from their purchases.
Q. Did you have a formal background in eyewear?
A. Through my profession as an optometrist, I have had the amazing opportunity to be involved in multiple vision clinics where we provided services to communities that were underserved or didn’t have any access to care. Most notably, I was fortunate enough to travel to South America to participate in a clinic in a remote part of Colombia where we were able to provide services to over 2,000 residents of a small coastal town. These types of experiences and the lessons learned along the way are a big part of what Kingsley stands for. Every pair of Kingsley glasses sold equals a full eye exam and a pair of glasses for a person in need via a collaboration with a wonderful organization called Optometry Giving Sight.
Q. What made this the right time to launch the brand?
A. Being in the industry, I’ve had a front-row seat to witness the game that is being played by the large corporations. One large multinational merges with another large multinational to create a goliath that controls a huge share of the market. At the same time, I’ve heard from many people that they are looking for a brand with a story, something they can be proud to wear and talk about with others. About a year ago, I was on a flight home from Italy with my wife and I had just finished reading Richard Branson’s biography (as a kid growing up in England, he was definitely an icon figure for me). Reading about his amazing story and what he built with nothing more than an idea and a whole lot of grit while still buzzing with inspiration from our recent adventures in Italy (one of the more inspiring places I’ve ever visited!) led to me having an epiphany at 35,000 ft. As soon as we arrived home, I started to doing research into how I could turn this revelation into reality.
Q. Who is the target Kingsley customer?
A. I expect the story and branding behind Kingsley may resonate more with younger adults, however it is intended to be a brand for everyone. For anyone who wants a stylish pair of well made glasses for a reasonable price that also give back to those in need, our glasses are for you.
Q, What is the price range for Kingsley designs?
A. Prices start at $175 for a complete pair of glasses or sunglasses, including prescription lenses. All lenses come with anti-reflective coating and UV protection. We also offer upgrade options such as polarized lenses for sunglasses and blue blocking lenses, which help to filter harmful blue light that is emitted from digital devices.
Q. Where can people check them out?
A. Kingsley frames are only available online at KingsleyEyewear.com. For those of us who are a little tentative about buying online — I totally get it! — we offer free shipping and free returns anywhere in Canada to help take the risk out of getting yourself a fantastic new pair of glasses.
Q. Lastly, what’s next? Any ambitions for the brand you can share?
A. Currently, I’m in the process of designing next year’s collection. It’s such an exciting challenge to design new styles and to try to stay ahead of the curve and bring out styles that people will be drawn to. Long term, though, one of my big goals is for Kingsley to make a greater contribution in developing parts of the world. There are hundreds of millions of people around the world who simply don’t have access to basic eye care. It would be a dream come true to see Kingsley sponsored clinics in different places around the world.
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