The idea was born in Iowa, can you tell us more about this? What’s the story behind the brand?
While attending the University of Iowa I was approached by a friend about this great organization giving sight saving surgeries to those in need. After exploring the organization, and looking further into the eyewear industry, I made a shocking discovery. I found out that the eyewear industry is one of the largest monopolies, controlled by a couple key players. What they do is pay royalties in exchange for the rights and use of name from designers such as Ray Ban, Oakley, Channel, Prada, etc., while artificially inflating the prices 10-20x the cost to manufacturer. Not only that, they own the distribution outlets too, Foreyes, Sunglasshut, Pearl Vision, etc. So when you think you’re buying an authentic designer product, you’re essentially buying a massed produced, overinflated piece of plastic, with the only differentiator being the logo.
So, the idea was simple, bring authenticity to an unauthentic market through true craftsmanship and artistic expression. While providing a great value, and social impact.
With over 4 years in development, traveling to and from Chicago/Iowa. My team and I, after much consideration, decided it would be best to make the move to Iowa, while keeping a small team handling warehousing/fulfillment in Chicago. Though, it may seem contradictory, given my industry (Eyewear) the resources, energy, nurturing start-up atmosphere in Iowa triumphs the offerings in Chicago. With low operation/living costs, unparalleled networks, and more importantly, the ability to be seen is much greater than that in a bigger city.
Ability to recruit students, as little to no cost, is an added bonus. Developing a strong base is essential to the success of any business. With a great deal of resources, and limited distractions, it is easier to build company culture, and a strong team in Iowa. Where in Chicago, it is more difficult to establish a foundation (and costly!).
Overall, Iowa has proven beneficial to my team, and company. We look forward to building and capitalizing what Iowa has to offer in its ever-growing entrepreneurial scene!
What is your favorite pair of sunglasses right now? And why should we buy them?
Personally, I jump around from my favorites. As you can imagine, it’s hard to choose between what I would consider my children. However, one of my favorites this spring is the Dark Walnut, Howard – when I was in Italy choosing the types of Mazzucchelli accetates, I absolutely fell in in love with the richness and depth of this material. After seeing the craftsmanship that went into it from our facilities in Greece, it always has been one of my favorites. It’s a very European/retro take on the aviator with a unique keyhole nose bridge, exposed hardware and signature Ellison logo engraving.
You can feel the quality in the weight, though it’s very comfortable and versatile in looks. Definitely a hot buy this Spring/Summer.
Who is the Ellison customer?
On a material level, our customers want high-quality products. We provide them with the highest quality products at the best value. On a deeper level, Ellison’s products have attracted consumers who want to help change the world. With that in mind, we give our customers a tangible way to aid in the fight against preventable blindness. We also work to fund and promote artists who help create the story our products tell through their unique designs. We allow our customers to satisfy their desire to do some good in this world while walking away with a fashionable pair of shades.
We think it’s amazing that you back such a great cause; can you tell us more about it?
We believe in corporate social responsibility. That’s why a portion of Ellison Eyewear’s profits will be donated to our give partner that works to save or restore the eyesight for deserving people in developing countries. Vision is essential for education, socioeconomic mobility, high quality of life, and general well-being. Ellison’s philanthropic contribution will be applied towards spectacles for children, building Vision Centers (Primary Eye Care centers) so as to provide primary/preventive care and for training eye health personnel.
We also believe in promoting up and coming artists. Artists like to think outside the box, so we decided to let them think on the box. We treat our products as a vehicle, and our boxes as canvas to expose artwork. Art is meant to be seen and enjoyed. Our products act as a medium for artists to get their work into the world. Every model has a unique box that will only be in circulation for a limited time. We want to help artists tell their story, and give you a piece of art you’ll never throw away.
What is next for Ellison?
We are a bunch of rebels, adventurers and explorers here at Ellison. In the next year we are excited and hope to keep expanding our artist community, build our first Ellison hospital and continue to provide authentic quality products to consumers who see the world through a different lens.
Ansel and Opie loves men’s fashion. Ansel and Opie love Dolce and Gabbana. This D&G runway show is no exception. Not only do we love the looks; our favorite male model, Clark Lichty, is walking. The fact that we have worked with him is a huge honor and we love watching his globetrotting Instagram. With roots in rural Iowa to the runways in Milan, how can he not be an inspiration? If you missed it last February, check out our Q&A with Clark and read that fifth question.
Watch for this guy. He will be walking for D&G again in July!
Our latest editorial, “Last Exit to Iowa City,” was shot in the streets of a quaint area in Iowa City and was inspired by none other than Mert & Marcus. The images are stunning so if you have never seen them, check them out. We were hoping for a nice sunny day, but as Spring goes in the Midwest… it was an overcast day so we made the best of it. Special thanks to Thompson & Co Salon Parlor for collaborating with us. They were also responsible for the awesome hairdo’s at the “Almost Famous Fashion Show” that we featured on the blog in May. Also a huge thanks to Shelby Stingley for continuing to work with us and support us.