These beautifully crafted Bird sunglasses have a purpose-driven payload. Every purchase funds a solar light to families in Malawi, Zambia and Uganda through a 'Share Your Sun' partnership with Solar Aid.
It's a purpose driven business headed up by Ed Bird. “I wanted to design high quality, sustainable sunglasses that look great and feel good. But more than that – I was looking for a way to combine business, design and social purpose. Share Your Sun is a way to connect with the bigger picture and contribute to a more sustainable world.”
It's undeniably a good match but it wasn't until getting the glasses in my hand, and on my head, that the project really came to life. The attention to detail is impressive from the signature feather etching to natural materials used and handmade leather cases. Regardless of any egalitarian aspirations, the product stands in its own right.
Asking founder, Ed Bird, why such a simple piece of technology as a solar light was important enough for him to hang his business on was just as eye opening. 598 million people in Africa alone have no access to electricity, relying on expensive and dangerous alternatives to light their homes. Many use homemade kerosene lamps which are a poor light source; emit toxic black smoke and eat up to 15% of a family’s income.
The solar lamps funded by each sunglasses purchase are distributed through UK charity SolarAid, and offer a safe and clean alternative. They give off hours of light in the evening so families can earn, learn and feel safe after dark, transforming the fortunes of entire families. One sunglasses funded lamp can create 1006 hours of extra study time according to Solar Aid statistics.
Is there a risk in this, I asked Bird, of funnelling profits towards this charitable effort? Other startups might be more conservative with contributions until they were more established. "It could be seen as risky", he responded, "that we've committed to giving a meaningful percentage of profit away. But actually, research is showing that responsible consumption brands have now overtaken conventional brands in terms of growth, and that consumers are willing to pay more for a product that works from a triple bottom line - social, environmental and financial. So increasingly it makes good business sense to take this approach."
Although still early days for the company it recently won Crowdfunder’s 'Best Fashion Start-up Idea’, earning support from website provider 123 Reg to boost their crowdfunding campaign. Nick Leech, 123 Reg Group Director, commented that he was "delighted with the submission from Bird Sunglasses who have a truly compelling concept, and we look forward to helping them grow as a business."
At 30% funded in 2 days the Crowdfunder looks like this will be another boost to the project. Supporters get to purchase glasses early at a 25% discount price. The sunglasses will be available more widely in April and retail from $100-$170 (£80-£140).
While these Bird sunglasses may not be the cheapest way to look good and stay safe in the sun, the combination of their handcrafted design and solar light payload should make them popular this summer.