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Affordable Vintage-Inspired Sunglasses

by Elke Erschfeld


In the past, I’ve written about the “buy one, give one” model by shoe company TOMS. When the company sells a pair of shoes, another pair is given to a child in need. TOMS, founded in 2006, pioneered this business model and many other companies embraced a similar concept—like Warby Parker that sells vintage-inspired prescription glasses at affordable prices. Some critics say that the “buy one, give one” model disrupts the demand for existing local businesses. That’s why I like how Warby Parker empowers local communities by teaming up with nonprofit partners like VisionSpring that do more than just distribute donations.

According to Warby Parker’s website, approximately one billion people don’t have access to affordable glasses. This means that 15 percent of the world’s population is unable to effectively learn or work because they can’t see clearly. So far, Warby Parker has distributed 500,000 pairs by providing funding and/or glasses to non-profit partners like VisionSpring.

The way it works is that VisionSpring provides training and glasses to low-income women entrepreneurs in developing countries to sell affordable glasses in their communities. Those local women entrepreneurs sell the glasses for an affordable price so that people who have to live on $4 a day can buy them and receive the eyesight they need. In return, this helps the community to do their jobs in a more productive manner. Research by VisionSpring and the University of Michigan has shown that wearing glasses can increase income by 20 percent. To me, all this sounds like a good tool to empower women in the developing world to create income for their families, through their own business.

Warby Parker offers prescription and sunglasses in many styles for men and women. True to the “buy a pair, give a pair” philosophy, for every pair of sunglasses sold, a pair of optical glasses will be distributed. In terms of styles, I like the classic Dean model in English Oak or Striped Olive, as well as Piper, an understated cat eye, or Madison in Rum Cherry. All of them have a slight retro feel, which is fun for summer and makes giving fashionable.

Connect with Elke @eco_chic_design

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