There’s a sort of magical class at Stanford Business School from which brands like Victoria’s Secret and Nike have emerged. Robert Denning isn’t saying that Westward Leaning‘s next, but we wouldn’t rule it out.
Denning and his co-founder, Karlygash Burkitbayeva, came up with the idea for their new line of sunglasses after a brainstorming session. The two were trying to figure out “the ways in which high-end retail could engage with contemporary social issues in a truly authentic and genuine way. Rather than use social issues merely for marketing, we wanted to see if it would be possible to make these issues core to a brand’s identity, and central to the actual design and manufacturing,” Denning said. Obviously, they found a way, and now the school project’s turned into an actual brand, selling on their own site and hitting Moda Operandi at the end of the month (expect to see them on some major physical shelves come fall).
Their sunglasses come in just one shape: a classic wayfarer. “I literally bought, like every style of wayfarer on the market to figure out the perfect, universally flattering shape,” Denning said. Mission accomplished. The glasses, which come in just black and tortoise, either matte or shiny, have a slight cat eye and bendable joints, so that they actually do look good on everyone. It’s the various materials on the arms of each frame that keep things interesting.
“We decided that integrating unique materials—ones that were related to key social issues—offered a way to make a thoughtful, sincere connection to social issues that went beyond mere marketing,” Denning says. “We’ve always loved sunglasses, but they also seemed the ideal vehicle for implementing this concept: we could inlay the unique materials (brass, aluminum, wood, antler, etc.) into “base” frame and create a product that would (hopefully) look good on everyone, while also carrying a meaningful social message that included a charitable component as well.” Those antlers, by the way, are bought from boy scouts who’ve scoured the country’s national parks in search of the horns while the wood comes from California’s beloved redwood trees.
Next week, they’re launching neon lenses, a beach essential gone luxury, and eventually, they’ll expand beyond shades. For now, snag a pair here, and let us know how many people stop you on the street!