Even with this heightened awareness, we are still floored when we see an ingenious product, especially when it's made with sources you'd never thought possible. Take wood for example. Would you ever imagine sunglasses made out of wood? Neither had we, and we definitely wouldn't have thought they'd have so much style either. Introducing Brooks Dame, the brain behind a line of sunglasses manufactured solely out of wood, and dedicated to a cause close to his heart. Here he sits down with us to chat about the idea behind Proof, their mission, and the company's plans for the future:
How did the idea for Proof come about?
Well our family grew up in the wood industry. My grandpa started his own sawmill he'd run product and then put it on a truck and run down to California and drop it off on the weekend and then come back and do it all over again.
So we have sawdust in our veins. It's really a part of us. I was working on trying to make some bamboo ski poles I thought it'd be a cool eco-option for skiers and it'd be something that people noticed on the hill. I couldn't get it perfect and was about to bag the idea. While I was researching bamboo I learned about all the cool applications for it and its qualities. Its super sustainable, eco friendly, grows fast, strong, good looking, etc. So as I did more research on bamboo I found bamboo reading glasses and thought why not do bamboo sunglasses, that lead to some other wood types and it's snowballed from there.
I know you and your wife, wedding and lifestyle photographer Cristi Dame, have traveled extensively to less fortunate countries around the world. Can you tell us a little bit about how the amazing gift of eyesight became the model behind Proof sunglasses?
Cristi's family is from El Salvador and we've spent a lot of time down there. Done some projects. We've had the opportunity to meet people from all over and many different walks of life. We've also traveled quite a bit. A few years ago we went to India. We were both really surprised at the amount of people in India and the amount of people living below the poverty line. India is beautiful, the people, the colors, its kind of a magical place. We both really liked it.
The group we work with in India has multiple clinics and they provide sight restoring surgeries to people who can't afford them. The Clinic we work with was actually introduced to me while in school; We did a case study on it. I like the concept, the story and thought it was a worthy cause to work with. It just took 4-5 years to come up with a product that could support it. There are so many talented people in the world. People who have much to give or share and just need the opportunity. These surgeries afford them those opportunities.
We love that not only are you contributing a large portion to those less fortunate in India, but that you're making a stand for the environment as well. Tell us a little about your process for making sunglasses out of wood?
That was really at our core. Once we had the product it was almost instantly that we realized it would lend itself to helping others and getting involved in social causes. Our product being made from wood automatically qualifies us as having an eco-friendly product. Wood is sustainable if managed properly.
Most sunglasses come from plastic. And plastic comes from oil or petroleum based products. So it's pretty interesting when people compare us to other sunglass companies that have been doing this a lot longer than us. They are usually quick to point out that all the big boys use plastic in their frames.
It has been interesting people from various demographics have been interested in the products. We get hip hop artists, hipsters, fashionistas, and tree huggers (we actually recently got featured on treehugger.com). Everyone likes the product for different reasons, but the fact that we are a "green" company earns us some extra miles with all of them.
We also offer the industry's only sunglass recycling program. If you get tired of the Proofs you are wearing down the road you can send them back in to us. We will repurpose them into animal bedding and give you a discount off your next Proof Purchase.
We source our wood from managed forests and each pair of glasses is hand assembled and finished. It's a process, but it helps us maintain high quality and good looking product.
We know that the idea of wooden sunglasses is not only innovative, but outside of the norm as well. Can you tell us a little about the sunglasses themselves- are they lightweight, provide UVA/UVB protection, etc?
Wood is extremely lightweight. We have actually compared our bamboo frames to plastic frames that are the same size and the bamboo comes in a few ounces lighter.
It is extremely durable as well.We offer 3 wood types currently 5 lens options. All our lenses are 100% uva/uvb protectant.All of our sunglasses have spring loaded hinges so they fit a variety of faces.
We also put a little message on the inside of each temple. It is laser engraved and is kind of like a fortune cookie or motivational quote that you can check out each time you put a pair on.
What other future plans does the company have at this point?
It has been crazy. The response has been great. We have magazines, websites, media outlets trying to get samples, stories etc. We've had some really big names chasing us down to feature the product. We are talking Oprah big (really, we got a call from O magazine last week requesting samples for an upcoming spread). Vogue, Outdoor magazine, etc.
We are also getting some requests from some more famous individuals and think that'll help us get some additional exposure. Right now we are enjoying the ride and trying to keep our inventory in stock.
We want to continue to expand the line. We have a few new models in the works that will come out for F/W. We also want to add some additional accessories.We currently have a line of hats and shirts as well. Each is linked to a social cause we are into like- Native American education on the Reservations, Child Soldier rehabilitation in So. Africa, reforestation in Haiti, etc.
Really we hope to continue to grow and reach more people. If we do this we can also affect more change in the social causes we are involved in.
Right now purchasing the sunglasses is as easy as clicking a button online. Any plans for bringing them to stores?
Good question. Right now we are selling almost exclusively online. We are getting requests to open accounts from all over the world which is fun. Sorting through them all is the tough part. Deciding which stores you want to be in and which you don't is always a challenge.
We recently attended the Pool Tradeshow in Vegas which is tied in with Magic. It happens every 6 months and all the big brands attend. It was a lot of fun. Cool to see some well known brands and some up and coming brands as well.
We met a lot of great people had a great response at our booth. It was always packed with people asking questions, trying on glasses, and ordering shades for their shops.
So we should be opening up stores around the country in the next few weeks.
We are really excited and really appreciate the support of those people who believe in the movement and the whole concept behind Proof.
So stay tuned. Until we open up a store in your area go check out the webstore.
We want to thank Brooks for taking the time to sit down with us. We are always thrilled to hear about products and companies doing good. The sunglasses are such a great option for those consumers looking for a balance between having style and the supporting environment. And knowing that you're directly helping others is always a huge plus too. Be sure to visit the Proof Website to peek on the entire line and keep up on what the company's up to. Congrats to Brooks and the Proof team on all your successes!