How sunglasses are made

What steps are included in the making of sunglasses? Learn what kind of materials are used to make sunglasses and how designers bring life to their ideas.

Every collection of sunglasses starts with an idea. Since the sources of inspiration are sheer endless, ideas can stem from a great variety of influences. Many designers draw inspiration from nature, art, architecture or (pop) culture. Usually the designer has an idea about the special 'feel' the new pair of sunglasses should have. To capture this 'feel', which can also be considered as a mood or a vibe, the designer might collect ideas, drafts and inspiration on a so-called mood board, which will later help the designer to get the design just right.

In many cases the designer gets input from a product manager because, from a business perspective, the main reason to design a new pair of sunglasses is a need that becomes evident. What types of sunglasses does the target group need? Special sunglasses for winter? Sunglasses for a round face? Or maybe cute sunglasses that young kids would appreciate? Ideally, the product manager and the designer cooperate on the way from an idea to the launch of a new collection.

Drafting designer sunglasses

Once the designer found the inspiration he or she needed, they start making drafts. Every designer approaches this differently. A designer who is passionate about retro sunglasses might look at different sunglasses from the 80s to get a feeling for the fashion of that time. A designer who is aiming to design sunglasses for kids might draw inspiration from their own childhood memories.

Drafting designer sunglasses © La Giardiniera

Once the draft is completed, the designer will make sure he or she gets a first prototype. This is usually accomplished through extensive handiwork. Depending on the material, the prototype is created by milling and filing. Once the prototype is sufficiently modelled, it is 3D scanned and the next steps of the design process will be made via computer aided design (CAD) programs.

What are the most popular materials to make sunglasses?

There are a variety of materials available to make sunglasses. Some frames are made of metal, others are made of plastic and some are even made from wood.

Most frames for eyewear are made from injected plastic or acetate. One major difference is the way these sunglasses are produced. Plastic sunglasses are moulded, whereas acetate frames are cut out of acetate planks. Acetate is a material made from cotton, which is dried and ground into cellulose powder which is treated with acid to create the raw material which is then pressed into acetate planks.

Drafting designer sunglasses © Sophie Hemels for Dick Moby

One of our partners, Dick Moby, specialises in sustainable materials for making (sun) glasses. They say about their own work:

"At Dick Moby we prefer to use bio-acetate instead of normal acetate. Since there is already enough harmful plastic in the world, we set out to make eyewear from plant-based acetate that can be biodegraded more easily than normal acetate. The main difference is that bio-acetate is made without crude oil or toxic plasticisers."

Truly Unique sunglasses

Some designers are determined to connect functionality and design. Our partner Chrome Hearts for instance is treating sunglasses like jewellery and puts an emphasis artful manufacturing. They say:

"Staying at the forefront of technical innovation in materials and manufacturing is critical to our ethos. Chrome Hearts is recognized in the industry for using the highest-quality materials, from wood & metal to precious stones, in our extensive product line and are committed to using the very same in the eyewear category. Like the jewellery and accessories, the eyewear is handcrafted and treated in the same manner as a piece of fine jewellery."

Truly Unique sunglasses © Ovvo Optics

There are several approaches to making sunglasses. Each as unique as the resulting collection of sunglasses. The different creative approaches to making sunglasses ensure a great variety of results from which the consumer can choose.

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