Written by Leah Sinclair

The brand, founded by sisters Clare and Christina Kimeze, is revolutionising the eyewear industry by creating frames to fit Black and brown nose bridges after noticing a gap in the market.

Did you know that most sunglasses are designed specifically for Caucasian and East Asian features?

I didn’t.

It’s a piece of information that isn’t entirely surprising – given that many things haven’t been historically created with Black features or bodies in mind – but it is something that stopped me in my tracks upon researching the eyewear brand Kimeze.

The brand, founded by British-Ugandan sisters Christina and Clare Kimeze, creates glasses designed to fit Black and brown nose bridges after the pair noticed a gap in the market.

“I had the realisation at home when I was wearing a pair of glasses while watching TV,” recalls Clare. “I was watching Bernard [Lowe] on Westworld and his glasses are terrible, he’s always fiddling with them. And then I realised that I was doing the same thing.”

Clare says it was at that moment that she called her sister and business partner Christina and shared with her that she didn’t think “glasses are designed for Black facial features”.

“And she said, ‘Well, I’ve never really found glasses that fit well. But I always thought that was just me.’”

The sisters realised that wearing glasses that didn’t fit their facial features was a shared experience and through speaking with friends and family, it became evident that there was more to the story and a market to create frames which fit perfectly for people with lower or wider bridges.

“We realised that we weren’t being catered for in eyewear and [the idea for the brand came] from a real need,” adds Christina.

From that conversation, the two Oxford graduates entered into a business relationship – something they never saw coming.

“We’ve always been close growing up and we probably never thought we’d end up working together,” says Christina. “Clare’s got more of a business brain and I’ve gotten more creative so it’s been working out really well.”

Coming to the realisation that the eyewear industry was not serving the Black community was one that took them on a path of discovery that opened the eyes of many, as they attended glasses fairs and spoke with manufacturers throughout Europe about the disparity – something they said was challenging.

Kimeze: Christina and Clare came up with the idea after realising the eyewear industry didn’t cater towards Black facial features

“We spoke with friends and family about this and what the implications could be and did a lot of research that took us across Europe as we explored the idea further and tried to speak to people working within the eyewear industry,” says Clare.

“We went to France, drove around Italy and were speaking with different manufacturers who would take us seriously.”

Clare says one of the things they were shocked to discover was just how well-known this issue was in the eyewear industry.

“There’s been an Asian fit, which is for very low, narrow bridges, that has been around since the 1980s in recognition of the fact that these big companies see Asia as a rich and growing consumer group,” she says.

“When we started going around these factories, they were all in complete agreement that this was an underserved consumer group and that glasses were not designed with lower wide bridges in mind. One of them actually said to us, this isn’t just the first for Italy, it’s a first for the world.”

Despite the acknowledgement of this issue, the sisters were also met with prejudice and ignorance which highlighted the challenges Black creators can face when designing products for their own features.

“We were met with a reasonable amount of prejudice and some attitudes that were obviously racist. It made us understand why it hadn’t been done before,” admits Clare.

“If you think about it, the best glass manufacturers are in Italy and Japan and there just wasn’t the drive to do what we’re doing.”

Kimeze: The brand launched in 2021 and is now being sold globally on Net-a-Porter

The research that went into the creation of the brand served as a reminder of the need to create products that work for different body types, features and more, and provided them with motivation while they worked towards the launch.

“We found a number of manufacturers that not only saw the immense importance and value of what we were doing but also who were committed to working with us to make a really handcrafted, quality product.

“In order to get a range of fits that were based around a Black or brown benchmark, we did 3D modelling then worked with the manufacturers to make a range of glasses that were really fashion-forward.”

In 2021, Kimeze officially launched a range of contemporary, handcrafted unisex sunglasses and opticals.

From the cat-eye-shaped Mia design in a gorgeous ruby red shade to the vibrant sunshine yellow Gabriel sunglasses, Kimeze’s luxury frames blend style and functionality – and, as of August, the glasses have been sold globally on Net-A-Porter.

“It’s such a huge highlight for us and super exciting,” says Christina.

“It’s amazing to be a part of Net-a-Porter’s family of premium brands and it’s a reminder that this is about so much more than just eyewear.

“It’s about being seen for who you really are and feeling truly represented and validated with what we create.”

Shop Kimeze here.

Images: Alex Masseks

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