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Zero-Waste Eyewear: Rewired

Model, actor and social entrepreneur Lily Cole has long championed sustainability through initiatives and activism. A pair of broken sunglasses in 2016 turned her attention to waste in the eyewear industry, giving rise to Wires Glasses, the zero waste, zero gender bio eyewear company looking towards a brighter future.

By Tanja Wessels
July 5, 2021

Sometimes things need to fall apart and to break before they can be re-imagined and innovate industries. And so it was in 2016 when designer Yair Neuman’s sunglasses broke whilst travelling, and he handmade a new pair, from a single piece of wire.  

Inspired by the experiment, in 2017 Neuman was joined by friend, model, actress, and social entrepreneur Lily Cole to co-found Wires Glasses, pioneering sustainable product design and production in the eyewear industry. 

This industry is frequently overlooked in fashion’s movement towards greater environmental accountability. According to Circular Design Europe, the eyewear market, which relies primarily on plastic as a source of raw material, is a $120 billion market, and one where sustainability is practically non-existent.  

Photo: Wires Glasses

Wires Glasses seeks to change that, through sustainable design and innovative materials. The gender free eyewear collections are handmade by a family business in Italy and the company works with ethical and environmentally responsible suppliers throughout all steps of the supply chain.

Most eyewear production rely on traditional “detractive manufacturing” techniques, where materials are cut away from a material block (usually acetate – i.e. plastic) to leave behind what’s needed for the frame. Wires uses stainless steel wire, handcrafted in Italy, for its frames. The arms are made with a first-of-its-kind invisible hinge mechanism, meaning they fold thanks to geometry, rather than traditional screws. Leaving no materials to un-sustainable chance, the temple tips are made using natural rubber.  

And on the opposite scale of “detractive manufacturing”, Wires relies on “additive manufacturing” for its rims through 3D printing, a process that only consumes the precise material needed to form a product. The rims are printed from a bio-nylon polymer made predominantly from castor oil, harvested from castor beans. Layer by layer, the rims are gradually built up from a powder. Leftover powder is re-used in the next print run, resulting in zero waste in production.  

Photo: Wires Glasses

Shunning fashion’s love of replaceable seasonal styles, the lens rims are designed to be interchangeable and can be switched out easily, allowing for multiple styles, shapes and colours without having to buy a whole new pair. 

Whereas the average lifetime of a pair of glasses is said to be just over two years, Wires’ frames should, according to the company, last a lifetime. Adding a new angle to sustainable visions in the eyewear industry, and flying the flag for the loved products last philosophy.