In an industry where fast and fickle, glitz and glam are the norm, we are constantly looking for the next breakout brand, and what we love even more than finding that breakout brand is finding on with a purpose. That is exactly what we found when we discovered PANDA, an eco-friendly line of sunglasses handcrafted from sustainable bamboo, during this season’s fashion trade shows. PANDA was our diamond in the rough.


 

The fashion forward line is not only eco-friendly but it also gives back in a big way through its ‘Buy a Pair, Give a Pair’ initiative where for each pair of PANDA shades sold, the brand donates an eye exam and a prescription pair of sunglasses to someone in need. Being fashionable never looked so good.

The shades can easily go from casual to couture with its selection of colors: black, brown, and natural, and silhouettes: Monroe, Robinson, Aviator, Martin, and Kennedy, and Nelson.

Read on for our exclusive interview with Luke Lagera, Chief of Partnerships for PANDA.

Our readers are dying to know, where did the inspiration for PANDA come from?

“Why are all sunglasses the same?  Let’s change that”.  Those were the words whispered standing in front of a sunglasses retail display in Washington, D.C.

PANDA was started by a group of college friends that had gone their separate ways upon graduation.  They were reunited by a single idea – to change the sunglasses industry for the better.  They combined their backgrounds, experiences, and passions into one vision: to create a trail-blazing sunglasses company that developed unique products where the individual designs were just as important as the product’s ethical and social impact.

Equipped simply with the vision of creating an ethical, sustainable, handcrafted sunglasses company, we shared our concept with the crowd-funding community at Kickstarter.com.  Our vision was welcomed with overwhelming support and we reached our fundraising goal in 3 days. 

PANDA Sunglasses launched at the beginning of 2012 with the help of 300 generous supporters and we will have already improved the lives of so many. Then we met the TOMA Foundation, an Austin, Texas based non-profit, that frankly struggled to raise funds after the 2008 financial collapse.

Buy a Pair, Give a Pair.

Panda seeks to increase the social responsibility of business. Through our partnership with The TOMA Foundation, Panda has found a unique opportunity to help grow organically alongside a non-profit organization. More importantly, our close relationship allows us the
benefits of easy access, partnered volunteer work, and the maximization of our customer donations.
For every pair you purchase, the PANDA-TOMA partnership will provide an eye or medical exam to a person in need. We will also donate a pair of prescription glasses or sunglasses (for those with cataracts or a similar type of eye deficiency). For this reason, and from the charitable purchases from our customers, we are honored to team with TOMA in order to facilitate the give the GIFT OF VISION.

Can you walk us through the process of creating the handcrafted eye wear?

Designed in New York City and Washington, D.C., the Panda Team makes sure that each pair is created with the highest quality material and craftsmanship. After sampling bamboo around the world, we found bamboo that was unmatched: it was stronger, the colors painted smoothly over the bamboo cut, and the lightweight material allowed our glasses to float (that’s right! they float!). Every pair is handcrafted from sustainable bamboo and comes with polarized lenses. Each lense is custom shaped to fit within the bamboo grooves; moreover, they have been tested, proved, and selected to be superior lenses (something hard to find in wooden sunglasses). This is why we offer a lifetime warranty on all glasses – nothing to hide!

My favorite style is the Nelson in black – what are some of your top-sellers?

One of our founders wears nothing but the Nelsons. They are certainly the suave and trendy style people look for at Panda. For women, the Monroes have sold very well given their cat-like shape and “gaudy” ways. However, the Kennedy style was the first to sell out in all three colors – they convey a sense of power and lavishness found in no other design. I think the exciting thing about the business is that different styles do better in different areas of the world: don’t buy too many Martins or the customers in Chile may be knocking at your door; in Europe, don’t be surprised to find Nelsons hanging out in Berlin; and in Austin or Miami, the sleek and sporty Robinsons are easy for a run or for floating down the river. Be careful… Pandas eat bamboo.
 
Where do you see PANDA going? Would you ever expand into other accessories?

Our goal right now is to build the brand of Panda Sunglasses. We have proven ourselves as premier bamboo sunglasses providers and our name-brand stores around the globe can attest to this. When people buy Panda, they buy a quality product and a story – with each purchase, they’re giving to someone less fortunate in this world. That’s what life is all about. Eventually, we will move into other accessories, but sunglasses are what the customers want. That’s who we listen to.

I’m a Georgetown grad myself, how does the heritage of Georgetown and the Paper Mill influence your brand?

Georgetown is a fashion hub for the northeast and especially for Washington D.C. The students of Georgetown attend class in their finest clothing, while sporting luxury brands (it’s rumored that professors offer bonus points for it). Panda can be this brand while symbolizing social change. It’s a sign of our generation – one that values luxury for a cause.

In fact, Georgetown already does something called “Party for a Cause.” With every drink purchased, they give away to a non-profit in need at various parties around D.C. This is the type of trend we love – engage in life’s fun activities and give back! Our generation can no longer take things for granted.
 
We love trends, what do you see as the upcoming trends in accessories?

We certainly believe it’s a move towards sustainable products for a cause. Panda embodies this characteristic and we respect other companies who do the same.
 
I understand that you are a part of the Ethical Fashion Fellowship, can you explain what that entails?

It’s exactly what we described above – companies that engage in fashion for a change. We are part of an exclusive community that helps each other grow as fashion forward providers. We bounce ideas of each other; we advertise for each other; and we ensure that we boast a stamp of eco-friendly approval.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you face as an emerging fashion label?


Our first challenge was the overwhelming response. Our Kickstarter page is the empirical evidence: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/85255341/panda-eco-friendly-handmade-bamboo-sunglasses
Here are amazing supporters who bought into an idea with no physical product. Then, given the feedback on quality, our next challenge was keeping up with inventory and media. Altogether, it was a revolution against harmful plastics made in eyewear; it was a challenge to the status quo of established brands; and finally, a pair of glasses that I won’t lose to the water!
 
What can our readers only find out here about PANDA?

A new collection is coming soon… I’ll give you a hint: they’re a hybrid model. But don’t worry, our current designs are the classics.

I originally conducted this interview for Fashion Edits. Read it here.

Connect with PANDA:

Phone: +1 971-AMPANDA (971-267-2632)
Email: team@wearpanda.com
http://wearpanda.com/
https://www.facebook.com/wearpanda
https://twitter.com/wearpanda

Comment