The women behind the first company to make glasses specifically for black faces says the eyewear industry treats the black community as an “afterthought”.
Kimeze was launched by sisters Clare and Christina Kimeze in London last month after being frustrated with the lack of glasses that properly fit the faces of members of the black community. They say that black shoppers are being overlooked by the industry, with the majority of glasses on the high street made with only a Caucasian face shape and size in mind. “None are made specifically for black features,” says Clare. “As a community, we have historically been an afterthought.”
Christina says that the optical industry is aware of the problem but is not acting to change things. “[They] are aware nobody is doing this and have made a conscious decision not to do it, which in and of itself is shocking,” she says. The sisters also say that companies use black models in their advertising campaigns to look inclusive but this is “disingenuous, some would even say exploitative”.
Clare adds: “There is a consumer group of over a billion people that has been overlooked. Of course this needs to change.”
Christina says that she came up with the idea of Kimeze when she was at home watching Westworld. “I noticed one of the main characters, Bernard (played by Jeffrey Wright), was wearing glasses that he didn’t seem to be able to keep on his face,” she says. “I remember thinking how uncomfortable that must be for him and then realised I was doing the same thing.”
As part of the background to setting up the company over a three-year period, the sisters spoke to industry professionals and found that this was an industry-wide issue. “This is absolutely an acknowledged pain point for black people, not just by the community by itself, but by the optical profession and glasses-manufacturing industry,” says Clare. “An early comment from our first manufacturer [in Italy] that stayed with us was: ‘This is not just a first for Italy, it is a first for the world.’”
Christina says that within the diversity of the black community there are some commonalities in terms of fitting glasses. “Some features we are talking about could include lower, wider nose profiles or narrower and lower nose profiles, with a lower bridge than Caucasian people,” she says. “Some people also have a wider nose at the bottom than Caucasian people, but not everyone.”
Clare says that one experience with glasses was uncomfortable and unflattering. “The bridge of my glasses was too narrow to sit on my nose bone,” she remembers, “I would get big gaps between my glasses and my nose or they would squash the base of my nose.” Kimeze’s range, which includes sunglasses, have specific nosepads and bridge widths made with black wearers in mind.
“We are excited to inject a fresh perspective, our glasses are designed in London and embody both our British and African heritage,” says Clare. “Will other companies produce eyewear to better fit black and brown faces? They absolutely should, but currently they don’t.”