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Colin Leslie does a great line in thoughtfully created, eco-friendly bamboo glasses and sunglasses that are catching the eye of discerning shoppers and celebrities alike. As a brand it has only been going for 4 years but has already built up a great reputation and is sold online and in stores internationally enjoying popularity in countries as varied as the US and Vietnam.
It’s an unorthodox route into the fashion industry for Colin so none of the usual well known fashion and design schools. He was a carpenter by trade when he struck out with an idea and a canny knack for self-promotion. He has plugged his spectacles through stars from the music and entertainment industries and was lucky enough to be plugged through this year’s BRIT awards. We spoke to Colin about his recent success and his rather natty looking specs.
Where did you study and how did you begin as a glasses designer.
I studied in a comprehensive school in Basildon Essex. When I left full time education, I started my working life as a carpenter & joiner. Making and designing staircases, windows and out buildings. That was over 30 years ago and I still work on the building sites to this day and I have been lucky enough to love my work and the skills I’ve acquired. I only started designing glasses about 4 years ago. This was due to an accident that I had on a building site. I broke an ankle and sprained the other, so I looked into other ways to make a living thinking that maybe in another 10 years I would have trouble working on uneven ground and climbing roofs.
Who have you been influenced yourself as a designer?
To be honest I think that the whole influence of ethical fashion has been the biggest influence. This has made me admire all eco fashion designers. I never realised how many things that were made from natural and recycled products.
How did the connection with the music world come about and your promotion through the BRITS awards?
I am lucky to have built a celebrity following. I now have artists in the UK and USA wearing my brand, actresses from the film and TV and singing artists like Tinchy Stryder and Loveable Rogues, T’e Eugene. I feel very lucky to have been approached by the BRIT Awards PR company to become part of this amazing event. This came about due the methods that I have used in the past to get my brand noticed in the celebrity circles. Due to the BRITS, my brand has been noticed worldwide with features on the brand in Australia and Indonesia. I already sell across Europe and USA, but there was an increase in sales on the night of the BRITS. I am in talks with various UK R&B artists for promotions so there is a good chance you will be seeing my bamboo sunglasses in future music videos.
You place a great emphasis on recycling and on having an eco-friendly product. Why is this so important to you?
Today’s world has become such a throw-away society from mobile phones to plastic drinking bottles. Landfill sites are overflowing with the mass of waste. By reducing the landfills by recycling and becoming ethically aware we can all do our bit. Ethical fashion can be cool and you do not need to be a tree hugger to be a part of that. And hopefully these ethics will make it a better place for the next generations.
How did you settle upon the materials for your glasses? Why bamboo and recycled plastic frames?
Bamboo seemed to be the most obvious choice to use. It’s one of the fastest growing natural products on the planet and can grow up to a foot a day. The bamboo that I use is specially grown on bamboo plantations designed solely for the purpose of production, so no wild bamboo is used. I chose to use recycled acetate frames, because this reduces the waste from over manufacturing plastic eyewear frames so less landfill. The old frames are re-injected into new styles.
Are there other products, other than bamboo glasses, with an eco-friendly that you are interested in developing?
At the moment, Colin Leslie will only be dealing with eyewear but who knows what the future will bring. Maybe a line of bamboo stranded casual clothing?
For more informationon Colin Leslie bamboo glasses see the website
Photography by Leyla Razavi Photography