INTERVIEW: Anni Shades Wants YOU to Wear Wood
Jul 21, 2011 - by Amanda Gabriele
Topping the list of overpriced fashion items we pay way too much for is eyewear. We're accustomed to spending $300 on a pair of designer shades that took about $2 to craft from ordinary plastic. While most of these aren't even made in America (gasp!), there are some incredibly inventive companies out there producing quality eyewear in the U.S. of A. I recently got a message from Phillip Mastroianni introducing me to his smart wooden sunglasses line Anni Shades. Made in the Ohio suburbs, these sunglasses and custom prescription glasses are crafted from ethically-sources exotic woods, making no two pair the same. I had the chance to talk with Phil about the conception of Anni Shades, how the company gives back and, most importantly, why wood?
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What made you want to design sunglasses and glasses? Did you see a lack of quality craftsmanship in the market or were you just bored with everything out there? I get this question a lot, and it was honestly just one of the moments where i thought "yeah, this is what i want to do." I didn't drop everything at once and become a sunglasses maker, but it had been an evolving side project since I thought of the idea. It was a hobby that turned into a career, but shouldn't everyone's career also be their hobby? I can't take credit for inventing wooden framed glasses and sunglasses, but my love for the details has helped me create some of the highest quality frames on the market. Not all wood sunglasses are created equal, and I believe in buying quality, not quantity.
You chose such an interesting material for your product. I guess the question on everyone's mind is "why wood?" It's the only way I could get girls to want my wood (laughs). But besides that, why "wood" i choose anything else? Wood is a distinctive material you can do amazing thing with. People are still shocked to hear you can make sunglasses from it. I always love seeing someone touch our wood for the first time. When you put wood on you face, it just feels right.
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You manufacture Anni Shades in the neighborhood where you grew up. Did you feel a responsibility to give back to the community you've known all your life? Yes, we do hand craft all of our shades right in Alliance, OH and, it's pretty cool to roll out of bed and walk over to work. I'm not a big fan of sitting in traffic for an hour commute. Alliance is probably one of the last places people think of when starting a fashion company, but I think it's great. It keeps me original and honest with my work.
I think it's remarkable you plant a tree for every pair of glasses you sell. Why is this eco-friendly gesture so important to you and your company? Some people call it green, many call it eco-friendly and others say it's sustainable, but I like to think of it as doing our little part to make a positive difference. I could go on to say we plant trees to be carbon-neutral and talk about all the politically correct yada yada, but it's bigger than that. It's about giving more than we receive and that's the true basis behind our small action. I hope others follow suit.
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Americana is FashionIndie's theme for July, so we are all about the innovative, creative things coming out of this country. What inspires you about America? How do you translate that inspiration when designing Anni Shades? Being American is all about individuality and pushing the limits. I think this inspires me most about this great country, and it's something all Americans can embrace. There is no one yelling, "hey kid, you can't make sunglasses out of wood." It's the independent spirit that's been pushing America forward since its founding. How can this be not inspiring?
What else inspires Anni Shades every day? Are there certain artists, cultures, photographers or blogs that inspire you? What websites are on your bookmarks bar? I do a lot of is walking because it allows me to look around and see the details in things most people miss. This is one of my biggest inspirations: finding the pieces others just pass on by. I always have my camera right by my side. I seem to forget things pretty quickly in today's fast paced world, so being able to capture everything is a must. It's funny because when I show my collection of photos from around town, people cannot believe they are from the same city they have lived in their whole life because they overlook the details. Some of my other inspiration includes; Music: Downplayer; People: everyone I meet; Magazine: Details; Blog: Besides FashionIndie, Nerd Boyfriend.
Not only is the whole FashionIndie team now obsessed with Nerd Boyfriend, we all want to wear wood as well. To learn more about Anni Shades, visit the website here.
Photos by Phillip Mastroianni and Steven Drakulich