Pala Eyewear : Stylish and Ethical Shades That Also Give Back
When I was a little girl all I wanted was a retainer for my teeth and a pair of eye glasses. I was so envious of the girls who flaunted their snazzy spectacles and absentmindedly clicked their retainers in and out of their mouths during a boring school lesson.
Not what you’d expect a little girl to dream of. A little strange. But, then again, I’ve always had a proclivity toward strangeness.
Anyway, for months I complained that I was having trouble reading so my parents finally took me to see the eye doctor. I had great vision back then, and I still do, but I somehow left with a pair of new glasses. Circular frames in a soft pink tortoise shell - I felt so chic!
At the time, I took for granted that I was able to easily see a local eye doctor, who then prescribed me glasses, which I had in my hands that day at a relatively minimal cost (whether or not I actually needed the glasses is an entirely different question and conversation!).
My parents had vision care as part of their insurance, otherwise the cost would have been more substantial.
For those who actually need to wear prescription eye glasses, access to eye care can be the difference between living an independent life and relying on others for things like cooking food or getting safely to work. Having access to eye care means being able to see what the teacher is writing on the board at school and participating in sports with friends. It’s getting dressed in the morning. Seeing your mom’s face clearly. Riding a bike.
Living with poor vision cuts across so many aspects of one’s life and drastically effects social well-being, self sufficiency, and productivity.
Given the sheer numbers of individuals who are living with a disability that could be corrected with a simple eye exam and access to spectacles, it’s surprising that there are so many barriers to access around the world.
John Pritchard, founder of sunglasses brand Pala Eyewear, recognized this massive problem, and built his brand as a way to help address the lack of eye care in certain communities.
Pala ethically crafts fashionable sunglasses for the discerning consumer.
I had been an admirer of Pala for a while, and they kindly sent me a pair of their sunglasses to take with me on my trip to Bali. I chose Zuri, their glam oversized version of the classic cat-eye silhouette.
Beyond helping people like me look cute in their stylish and sustainable sunglasses, Pala has some goals. And they’re lofty one’s.
PALA is on a mission. A mission to put an end to poverty, to protect the planet and to enable all people to enjoy peace and prosperity.”
The fashion industry is a dirty place and doesn’t typically put people or the planet ahead of profits - so Pala is among the new wave of trailblazers who are actively working to change that.
Pala puts environmental and social responsibility at the core of their brand’s ethos and they’re constantly striving to improve.
This is one of the reasons I really love this brand. They’re not perfect. They don’t pretend to be.
But they’re transparent about their materials and supply chains, acknowledge where they can improve - particularly when it comes to sustainability - and go to great efforts to put the proper plans in place to make those improvements a reality.
Their frames are currently made from acetate, which has it’s own setbacks, but is a far better material than the virgin plastic so many other sunglasses companies use. Shipped in recycled packaging, each pair comes with a sustainable case ethically woven from plastic bags and waste. (More on the weavers who make their cases in a later post!)
Better still, Pala is setting their sights on launching frames made from planet-friendly materials like recycled-acetate and bio-based materials, which are biodegradable. So exciting!
More Than Just Sunglasses - Pala Gives Back
Beyond their commitment to treating people and the planet with respect while selling sunglasses, Pala addresses the problem of lack of access to eye care with every pair of sunglasses they sell.
But, instead of operating on a buy-one-give-one model like some other brands, Pala helps to build long-term sustainable solutions to this issue by providing grants directly to eye care projects in various countries in Africa, including Ethiopia, Zambia, and Ghana.
Donating glasses is nice, but activating long-term solutions in communities helps put the control into the hands of the people who live there and ensures that access to eye care will be available to everyone in the future.
Their grants have helped to establish a critical eye care center and dispensary in Zambia, funded optical equipment, and supported outreach programs. This translates to eye care exams, eye care training, and access to prescription eye glasses for members of these communities.
Pala wants to do more, but needs your help.
Help Fund the Progression of Sustainable Design and a Vision Aid Project in Ethiopia
With all that Pala has managed to accomplish in the last three years, they want to do more. They recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $40,000. If they reach their goal, the money will fund two projects.
The first is to launch three frames made from better materials.
As previously mentioned, Pala currently uses acetate. Although the acetate they use is predominantly made from cotton fibers, it still contains plasticizers, which aren’t great for the planet.
A better option than virgin plastic, yes, but not necessarily super sustainable. But, better technology that does not require plasticizers exists however their use is not yet mainstream. This money will enable them to produce a bio-based frame that is biodegradable. And, as with anything, the more that companies like Pala push for these materials the suppliers will be able to provide them. In addition to bio-based materials, Pala will launch frames made from recycled-acetate by utilizing waste or material that would otherwise be discarded as off-cuts.
The second project the Indiegogo campaign will help to fund is a two week long outreach program in Ethiopia in partnership with the charity Vision Aid Overseas. Working alongside a local NGO, six expert opticians from the UK will go to eye care centers in Butajira and Batu to work with as many patients as possible - they anticipate providing over 1,000 eye exams, which is a HUGE impact!
Learn more about the fundraising campaign here.
The future of sustainable and ethical fashion is here and it’s exciting to see how different brands are pushing this movement forward, while making positive social impacts in the world. Brands like Pala prove that when the focus extends beyond the bottom line and includes social and environmental benefits, everyone wins.