Ethical eyewear that gives back, we like it. Founder John Pritchard wanted to start a brand with a low impact on the planet and a high impact on people. Pala eyewear creates timeless and sustainable sunglasses while funding eyecare projects across Africa. We were able to ask John a few questions about his journey towards this inspiring brand.
Tell us more about Pala Eyewear
Put simply, Pala is an ethical eyewear brand that gives back. As a brand driven by purpose, our mission is to produce high quality, long-lasting sunglasses that minimise the impact they have on the planet and maximise their impact on people. Each pair has been designed for those who acknowledge the need for a better future, appreciate the world we live in and embrace the adventure of exploring it. We want to get everyone outside!
We take a unique approach to fashion by creating a range of sunglasses that support life-changing vision projects in Africa for every pair sold. We also work with weaving communities in Upper East Ghana that make our cases from recycled plastic waste that would otherwise be destined to landfill. For the weavers we work closely with, we provide what is termed locally as a ‘progressive wage’ aimed to help them empower themselves out of poverty – an important element of our brand.
What inspired you to start Pala Eyewear?
My initial spark for the brand stemmed from a desire to do something with my life that provided me a genuine sense of purpose. I had enjoyed many years working in the corporate world, but ultimately, I became more uncomfortable with the ‘comfort’ of my job when there were growing environmental and humanity issues in world. I felt I was in a privileged position to be able to see if I could make a difference in my own small way to help tackle some of these issues. Setting up my own business and putting a social cause at the heart of it was my way of doing this, giving me that purpose that I was seeking. For me it was a case of identifying a cause first rather than coming at is from a ‘fashion creation’ angle. I then had the task of assembling a cast of far more talented people around me who could help me create a credible eyewear brand and bring it to market.
The journey, from a seed of an idea many years ago to create a brand that would give back has been a long and winding one, but with the greatest reward. Pala gets to deliver lasting change, empowerment and opportunity through funding eyecare projects across Africa whilst creating sustainable sunglasses to help you get the best out of the natural world that we call home.
In what way does Pala Eyewear contribute to a better planet?
We see caring for our home in a pretty holistic way – a balance for making change for the better. For every pair of sunglasses sold, we give back to eye-care programmes in Africa by providing grants to vision centres, dispensaries and screening programmes. To date, thousands of sight-impaired people have had their lives changed and their ability to earn an income enhanced thanks to receiving a pair of prescription glasses. We also work alongside a Ghanaian-based NGO to support weaving communities to make our protective sunglasses cases. Woven using traditional methods utilising otherwise wasted plastic, we provide a trade and an income to help them empower themselves whilst upholding tradition (and recycling as we go!).
When it comes to producing our sunglasses, we are always looking for ways to progress. Our move towards a more sustainable future gets closer with the release of our exclusively Italian bio-acetate collection this season. Most sunglasses are made from acetate due to its durability, flexibility and high quality; a natural material (made from cotton wood fibres) but with added oil-based plasticisers. Bio-acetate? Those plasticisers are entirely biodegradable meaning the material is 100% plant based with no extra nasties. And equally important, all of our sunglasses are vegan and cruelty-free.
What are you most proud of?
In our own small way, making change happen. Thanks to all the incredible support that our customers, stockists and partners have shown us we’ve been able to give back to many whilst setting a president that making eyewear doesn’t have to be as damaging to the natural world we are lucky enough to call home. When you invest in our brand, you not only receive a beautiful pair of sunglasses you also take a stand against fast fashion, make a better choice for the planet and have real lasting impact on the lives of others.
Do you have any advice or tips for young entrepeneurs who want to start a sustainable brand?
Whilst I may not have started out in the fashion industry, I have met a lot of brand owners (and team members!) that have. The common denominator across everyone I’ve interacted with is their tenacity; you need determination, drive and enthusiasm to continue on the path you’ve chosen – especially in such a fast paced, ever evolving and high-pressure industry as fashion! But it’s not essential to follow a conventional route. Best advice? Find your purpose, the things that truly make you tick, and start making work from there.
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Pics: Pala Eyewear