While fashion brands that cater to black women have increased (and improved!) over the years, eyewear is one of the few markets where we lack both ownership and representation. As usual, we’ve had to take a “for us, by us” approach and create our own solutions to a great deal of these problems—including boring eyeglasses. And so, two black women decided to create a vibrant, fashion-forward eyewear brand of their own named Vontélle.
Vontélle Eyewear is a luxury brand from Tracy Vontélle Green and Nancey Harris. In an interview with Black Enterprise, they describe why they started the brand:
“The lack of ethnically inspired styles led us to create our own line,” they said. “While the selection of eyewear globally has increased, the familiar styles remain the same; copied over and over. We decided to add culture and ingenuity to classic styles.”
Thus, their journey to creating head-turning eyeglasses for the black women began.
Challenges They Faced
The pair have encountered numerous challenges. For instance, they discovered that Black representation is severely lacking. The pair went to Paris for Fashion Week and found that only a handful of African Americans were in attendance.
Even though they interviewed numerous manufacturers and designers, most did not even bother to call back. They either didn’t believe them, didn’t want to work with Black women, or couldn’t grasp their vision. Only three replied, and one was leisurely while another overcharged them.
Giving Eyewear Representation
They revealed that both globally and in the US, African American consumers spend billions on luxury eyewear, but most aren’t owned by Black brands. And in terms of style, they only offer variations of the same designs.
So, they chose to launch their own collection with an ethnically inspired style that isn’t present in the market, and Vontélle Eyewear was born. They launched with 37 designs that each add ingenuity and culture to classic eyewear designs. The patterns are both ethnic and exotic, reflecting Latin, African, and Caribbean cultures.
In French, Vontélle stands for “there she goes”.
How They Funded It
The brand is 100% self-funded. The founders consider themselves fortunate enough to have had careers that have allowed them to make wise investments and save up. That said, the costs quickly added up.
Right now, they are considering how to scale the brand and make it sustainable. They need more capital to fund their marketing so they can increase the brand’s awareness and grow sales. They have also been applying for grants. Next, they want to try crowdfunding and pitch to venture capital firms that can invest in them.
Their Goals Going Forward
It’s simple: they want to change the world.
From this year onwards, Tracy and Nancey want to change the eyewear industry. They aim to sell out their entire first stock and come up with new designs while also reproducing their bestselling ones. They are currently making designs for the Fall/Winter Collection 2021-2022. Their designs incorporate wood along with other materials.
The brand is also aiming to have success as well as control. By maintaining control over what they design, they can keep producing their unique handcrafted eyewear. And they consider success as being able to take their culture and designs to the global stage.
Seeing How to Help
The co-founders learned that African American communities have eye health disparities at a higher ratio than most others. To be precise, Blacks are the most likely community in the US to have diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. So, giving them eyewear for medical purposes is crucial.
To this end, Vontélle is partnering with Women in Need. This is New York City’s biggest provider of shelter, with a dozen shelter facilities that offer supportive housing and other services to the city’s women and children.
The brand also plans to partner with optometrists to give eyewear and free eye exams. This should help the community to regulate eye health problems.
An Eye Towards The Future
Vontélle is already turning heads with its unique style and community outlook. It promises to grow into a major competitor in the eyewear industry.