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Sunglasses with soul – a case history

Sunglasses with soul – a case history

Sun’s out, sunglasses on! But do you know if yours are ethical? It’s not uncommon to take care and interest picking out clothes that are responsibly made, and then grab the coolest pair of sunglasses without a second thought as to the journey they’ve been on to get onto your head.

That’s why this week we’re talking about Pala. It’s an ethical and affordable (£45 per pair) sunglass brand that helps fund vision projects in Africa. The concept is simple. Buy a pair of these specs and the proceeds go towards eye care projects. They’ll fund the creation of vision centres and dispensaries, which will provide new glasses to those who need them at a ratio of one patient for every pair of sunglasses bought!

The new 2017 collection for men and women is characterised by founder John Prichard’s three main brand criteria: high fashion, good quality material and excellent value for money.

But there’s so much more here than just style and value. Prichard, who works in digital media and is a glasses wearer himself, became familiar with the issues surrounding lack of eye care in low-income countries and decided to take action. He says: “Pala comes from the word ‘impala’ (the antelope), incredible creatures who are renowned for their superb eyesight – their survival tool.”

The cases tell as much of a story as the glasses themselves; a colour stripe woven into each one allows them to be traced back to one of three rural communities that produce them. Following a chance meeting with Jib Hagan – a Ghanaian working with basket-weaving communities in Bolgatanga in northern Ghana – Prichard learned about the weavers’ experimentation with using recycled twisted plastic to make baskets. These are traditionally woven from straw but the seasonal availability of straw was a problem and the endemic issue of waste in Ghana was something that needed addressing, until weavers realised that plastic bags could be washed, cut and twisted into yarn, then woven just like straw. Prichard thought that could work for Pala too. Now the same weavers in Bolgatanga make Pala’s cases using exactly this process.