Glasses frames to suit black and brown features
In 2019, writer and activist Caroline Criado-Perez published Invisible Women to wide praise and mild shock. Her meticulous investigation of sexism through the lens of data revealed some little-known facts: we learnt that phones have historically been designed for male hands and are therefore more difficult for women to hold, and that cars are built around the male form (explaining, among other things, the countless women forced to hunch over the wheel while struggling to reach a pedal).
They’re the kind of findings that prompted sisters Christina and Clare Kimeze to found a luxury eyewear brand designed specifically for black features. “I’d be doing basic household tasks and find my glasses slipping down, but I’d never thought why,” Christina says. Investigation with black family and friends uncovered a shared experience: their eyewear had not been sitting comfortably. “After we spoke to people in the industry and got a better understanding of what the standard fits are, it quickly became apparent that they were based on Caucasian facial morphology,” she adds. The discovery led to a three-year process of meeting manufacturers and designers, working with 3D scans of faces within the black community, and mining scientific literature on the averages and differences that affect the fit of eyewear.
“It was our first experience of the eyewear industry beyond being glasses and sunglasses wearers,” says Christina, an artist. Clare – who used to work as an analyst in the asset management industry – leans forward and shows how the bridge of her Kimeze glasses sits perfectly on her nose. Beyond the impeccable fit, the eyewear is chic and beautifully crafted. Acetate cat-eye sunglasses frames include those in neon yellow, brightest red (£245) and black with diamante trim (£285); tinted lenses include pink, brown, blue and black. Unisex opticals include square-cut wire-rimmed (£245) and oval tortoiseshell acetate (£249). All are handmade in Italy. “Our fit is just a fit,” Clare insists. “We wanted to create an aspirational product.”
Clare and Christina are of mixed Ugandan and British heritage, and grew up in London. Much of the brand’s aesthetic reflects that blend of London cool and African vibrancy. “We are inspired by African cinema, music and literature, and that definitely filters through into the collections we’ve launched,” Christina says. They also point to partners – such as rising photographer Ekua King, who shot the collection, and the female-owned manufacturer they work with – as helping to shape the brand. “The energy we have felt from co-collaborators has been fantastic,” says Clare.
The sisters note, however, that it hasn’t been an easy journey. “We need to keep going and keep innovating,” Clare says. “It’s that drive to deliver something really excellent that is going to give us an edge.”