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By Diane Small
Conscious minded model Lily Cole has done all kinds of cool things for the environment: she’s campaigned against the use of shark squalene in cosmetics; collaborated with all kinds of vegan and eco friendly brands; set up ethical knitwear brand The North Circular, and most recently, she’s helped launch Wires, a sunglasses collection that blends British design with Zimbabwean copper wiring craftsmanship that dates all the way back to the 15th century in Africa.
The pliability of copper and brass allows the frames from the Wires collection to be completely flexible, making them perfectly fit all faces of all sizes. Handcrafted in Harare from a single piece of copper or brass wire, each pair includes an enamel coating to produce a smooth, hypoallergenic frame that won’t oxidise. This process ensures the copper maintains its integrity for decades to come.
“I wanted to create a soft frame that can be adjusted to every face,” said Yair Neuman, designer of Wires. “So if, for example, you have one ear slightly higher than the other (which most of us do), you’ll find it easy to bend the frame to suit your face and get a snug fit.”
But Wires isn’t just about a comfy frame; there’s a ethical philosophy behind the brand, too. “Our objective is to reignite the art of ancient African wire craft while improving the lives of locals in Harare, Zimbabwe,” continues Yair. “Wires is also about creating a more human industrial revolution, one that has zero waste.”
The unique design of Wires reflects Zimbabwe’s rich history in manufacturing and sculpting wire. For over 500 years, artisans there have used wire to create unique sculptures and jewellery. Wires aims to embrace this culture, raising awareness of these ancient techniques and combining them with high tech, sustainable 3D printing.
Using extra high quality lenses from France, the glasses are fully UVA and UVB certified and comply with all international eyewear standards; the use of locally sourced materials and specialised African craftsmen means Wires is providing local jobs and a steady income streams.
Yair explains: “Our customers are interested in different aspects of the Wires brand, including its sustainable design, indigenous knowledge systems from ancient cultures and job creation. For the wearer of Wires, it’s about self expression and embracing who you are. We try to communicate these characteristics through the product’s design and people themselves.”
The Story Behind Wires
The sunglasses concept is the brainchild of designer Yair Neuman in collaboration with impossible, a business founded by Lily Cole that aims to celebrate brands producing thoughtfully and ethically made products.
In the past few years, government corruption and extreme weather in Zimbabwe has badly affected the country’s economy and agricultural industry. Wires aims to offer a solution to these problems by entering the market as a global fairtrade brand that will create jobs in an country that is now in dire need of economic development.
As Lily Cole, Chairman of impossible, said “Design that looks at supply chains in order to change the way products are made, is part of impossible’s mission.” Seems like with the help of Lily Cole, turning the disastrous Zimbabwean economy around with a pair of handmade sunglasses may not be that ‘impossible’ after all.