I haven’t owned a pair of sunglasses since college. Honest to goodness! I can’t quite pin down whether the lack of shades in my life is due to laziness in selecting a style I love or my gift of losing most pairs I purchase. Sigh. Either way, you can find me squinting my way through freeway traffic. Until now!
I’ve always been hesitant to try out wood sunglasses. Friends of mine had purchased delicate, handcrafted pairs from high-end brands, only to watch them snap within a few weeks. Well, just in time for summer, I came across Feller Shades via my fellow blogger and friend, Simply Liv and Co, and interest sparked. These shades looked thicker and significantly better quality than the pairs I had noticed previously lining department store display cases. Perhaps they were different.
After reaching out to the founder, Zac Kish, I was quickly assured Feller Shades had a story to tell, that something about these sunglasses were different. With that, I eagerly selected the Lolo Shades in Rosewood Gradient and patiently awaited their arrival.
Now, you may be thinking: “Emily, it’s the start of September. Shouldn’t you have reviewed these shades significantly sooner so we could’ve snagged our own pair for summertime?” Here’s the deal: Yes, I could’ve done that. But are quick reviews fair and honest? Possibly. However, I always desire to give genuine feedback about the ethical pieces I share about. Therefore, I waited. From mid-July to early September, my Lolo Shades accompanied me through backhill drives in beautiful Leavenworth, shaded my eyes during family wedding festivities in Colorado, sat comfortably atop my face while watching a 10-hour Ironman Triathlon in Ceour d’Alene, and helped me stay on course amidst glaring sun on my seven-hour drive back from Montana.
In all honesty, I’ve actually had many issues in the past with the fit of eyewear. Ever experienced that uncomfortable pinch on the bridge of your nose from shades that don’t fit quite right? The worst! What I was surprised (and excited) to discover about the Lolo’s is their level of comfort. I attribute this not only to their unique design, but also to the lightweight rosewood they’re crafted from. Most sunnies boast thick, heavy plastic that put unnecessary pressure atop your face. Feller Shades are different.
Alright, great. We found some shades that are actually comfortable, not to mention incredibly stylish! How exactly are these shades made? Where are they made? Who makes them? This is why I love shopping ethically. There’s always a story behind the pieces you select. Rather than attempting to tell that story myself, Feller Shades co-founder, Zac Kish, kindly answered several questions that detail the heart, creativity, and craftsmanship behind the brand.
What’s the backstory to Feller Shades? Was the creation of your brand a lifelong dream or was there a unique event that sparked your passion for this craft?
I’ve always had a desire to operate a business that had a positive impact on the environment. Right out of High School, I started a pedicab (bicycle taxi/rickshaw) company in Ann Arbor. I liked this because it helped cut down on traffic in the city while reducing our carbon footprint. But for various reasons, I had to close this business. However, I always knew I wanted to do something that had a positive impact on the environment. I’ve seen wooden accessories like sunglasses and watches before, but after looking around I couldn’t find a company that offered the style I liked while also giving back to the environment in the way that I thought they should be. So I approached my brother, Mac, who is a skilled woodworker, and pitched him the idea of trying to start a company that produced wooden eyewear and planted a tree for every pair sold. He agreed that it would be a cool idea and so we started Feller Shades.
There’s a common stigma in the ethical community regarding manufacturing products in China. However, we believe transparent brands can still produce their goods ethically abroad. Can you share more about your choice to produce your sunglasses in China and how you uphold ethical standards through this process?
The reason we manufacture in China is the reason everyone manufactures in China: cost. When starting Feller Shades, it didn’t take long for us to realize that it would be way too time consuming and expensive to produce in the US in the beginning (we do have a goal of eventually bringing production to the US), so we set our sights overseas. After much searching for a facility that could produce what we wanted ethically and economically, we landed on a small family-owned facility in Nanjing. We know that manufacturing in China is not ideal and that there is a negative connotation that comes along with it. However, we chose the facility we did because they were the most ethical we could find. The facility goes through regular assessment to meet high safety, health, and environmental protection requirements. Actually, as I type this email, the facility is being inspected for EPA standards.
We also double-check stateside to ensure the product meets our expectations because things can slip through the cracks over there. One example of this was with a recent product launch. The prototype that was sent to us was made of a species of wood that, in the US, is considered “threatened”. So, although customers had pre-ordered this product, we informed the facility that we would not be offering this material to our customers due to the status in the states. We chose a more eco-friendly species, which had a slight impact on the appearance and informed our customers of the adjustment. We also discuss our Chinese manufacturing on our site here under “Our Ethics + Sustainability”.
The mission behind our blog is to connect our readers with the ethical brands they’re investing in. Contrary to the fast fashion industry, we value the openness and personal connection ethical companies offer to their customers. Any hilarious or heartfelt stories from your experience running Feller Shades?
As we are still a very new company, we don’t have too many interesting experiences. But, we are really thankful for the support we’ve gotten. We attempted to start this company through Kickstarter, but failed due to a lack of promotional funds. But we were determined to make this happen. So, we decided a pre-order strategy would work better for our needs and allow us to grow at a more controlled rate. Because of the positive reception we’ve received locally in Ann Arbor, we’ve managed to get our first line up and running (90% of our pre-orders were in Southeast Michigan). Now we are just looking to spread awareness throughout the country about our brand and our cause.
If you’ve been in the market for a new pair of ethically made, comfortable, and stylish shades, Feller Shades is worth a look 🙂 Feel free to use code ADAYPACK20 at checkout for 20% your entire Feller Shades order! It may be the start of September, but we think Feller Shades is worth the investment for anytime, every season, and all adventures!
Note: Thank you, Feller Shades, for gifting me a pair of Lolo Rosewood and Gradient sunglasses to review. For the sake of transparency, I was not paid for this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are our own!