How it began

I’m John, founder of Pala, an eyewear brand built on keeping our impact on the planet low, and our impact on people high. The journey, from a seed of an idea many years ago to create a brand that would give back has been a long and winding one, but with the greatest reward. Pala gets to deliver lasting change, empowerment and opportunity through funding eyecare projects across Africa whilst creating sustainable sunglasses to help you get the best out of the natural world that we call home.

In my early twenties I was fortunate enough to travel to numerous countries across Africa. The people I met, and the beauty of the landscape never left me. The incredible vistas of the Rift Valley and Kilimanjaro, and watching Wildebeest migrate across the plains of Serengeti are memories I will always hold close. Nature at its finest – you could have stood there at any point during the last 1,000 years and experienced this untainted wilderness. Rare moments of connection with the planet.

I visited many communities, always welcoming, language replaced by smile and gesture. Years later I read an article on the global problem of a lack of access to eyecare. There are 1.2 billion people worldwide with poor vision simply because they are unable to receive basic surgery or access glasses, and Africa has 73% more visually impaired people than any other region in the world. Yet a pair of glasses is recognised as the number one tool to fight poverty – it empowers the wearer by enabling them to read, learn and work.

I knew that something more could be done. That seed planted in my mind from years ago was tended to until I founded Pala as a purpose-driven brand. Why not create kind to the planet sunglasses, that give back through eye care projects? Joining the dots and helping others to see. Designed for those who acknowledge the need for a better future, appreciate the world we live in and embrace the adventure of exploring it.

You have made change happen. Thank you all for the incredible support that you’ve shown us. When you invest our brand, you not only receive a beautiful pair of sunglasses you also take a stand against fast fashion, make a better choice for the planet and have real lasting impact on the lives of others.

Brighter days ahead – John

foundee of Pala John Pritchard

Restoring Vision​

For every pair of sunglasses sold, we give back to eye-care programmes in Africa by providing grants to vision centres, dispensaries and screening programmes. To date, thousands of sight-impaired people have had their lives changed and their ability to earn an income enhanced thanks to receiving a pair of prescription glasses.

Giving back is at the heart of what we do, helping to tackle a global problem by providing grants directly to eye-care projects across Africa. Eyes are the second most complex organ after the brain with more than one million nerve fibres connecting each eye to the brain and each eye’s resolution a mighty 576 megapixels. Find a camera with that kind of resolution! Sadly over 640 million people are unable to access the eye-care they need. Crucially, a pair of spectacles can be an invaluable economic tool providing empowerment for the wearer. They enable reading, learning and access to better education, plus provide a chance to operate a machine, or to thread a needle and improve overall job prospects. Access to this is vital.

We work closely to achieve this with international charity Vision Aid Overseas.

Dedicated to fighting poverty by transforming access to eye care in developing countries including Burkina Faso, Zambia, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia, Vision Aid Overseas has provided eye tests and glasses to over one million people worldwide in the past 30 years.

Projects our grants support include building a new Vision Centre; or dispensary, purchasing equipment or supporting an outreach programme – all sustainable, long term solutions that facilitate eye-care, tests and provision of spectacles. From the funding of these projects we can calculate a ‘cost per patient’ helped and it is that cost that you provide through buying our eyewear. This is how we square our proposition that buying a pair of sunglasses equates to a pair of spectacles to a person who needs them. As we grow, we will continue to innovate and look to create change where it is needed most.

People make Pala. Communicating the impact Pala is having is as important for us as it is for you. We will continue to bring back stories from the countries we are working with, so you can hear from those you are supporting and those that are on the ground helping them. Spectacles are far more than a simple convenience; they are a powerful economic tool. That’s why we’re passionate about providing quality eyecare to those who need it.

girl eye test

“By designing long-lasting eyewear whilst creating tangible change, we walk the talk of a sustainable fashion future putting people and the planet before profits.”

John Pritchard
founder Pala Eyewear

Empowering Communities

Things don’t stop there. We work alongside a Ghanaian-based NGO to support weaving communities to make our protective sunglasses cases. Woven using traditional methods utilising otherwise wasted plastic, we provide a trade and an income to help them empower themselves whilst upholding tradition (and recycling as we go!).

To create our unique cases, we partner with Care4basket a non-governmental organisation (NGO) running an initiative in Bolgatanga, Upper East Ghana. Working with artisans and weavers from deprived communities, they make traditional woven baskets – and now the cases for our sunglasses. We’re as proud of these sunglasses cases as we are about what goes into them. Each is handmade by a weaver from one of three rural villages.

By utilising recycled plastic, we give the weavers access to a readily available material, rather than the more traditional straw, which is limited by seasonality and increasingly, climate change. This offers the chance for a more regular income throughout the year. We provide each artisan with all the materials they need; they then weave the cases in their own time and return the finished product for payment. We look to keep our impact on the planet as low as possible, so we created these cases with this in mind.

The recycled material we use could have been many things in a previous life – a plastic bag, a discarded water sachet, plastic used to bind pallets, or even discarded material from the plastic bag making process. This waste is collected, washed, melted and re-purposed into the plastic that is then woven into each case, then labelled by hand with the name of the weaver that created it.

“Our products are designed for those who acknowledge the need for a better future, appreciate the world we live in and embrace the adventure of exploring it.”

John Pritchard
founder Pala Eyewear

Sustainable Design

We are on a journey towards a sustainable fashion future. We want to protect our planet, and to do this we need to make our designs as sustainable as possible. As each season passes, we are continuing to innovate now offering both recycled acetate and bio-based designs housed in eco-friendly recyclable packaging and with carbon offset shipping.

Let’s start from the top. When it comes to producing our sunglasses, we are always looking for ways to progress. It’s early days but our move towards a more sustainable future gets closer with the release of our recycled acetate styles made from otherwise wasted factory offcuts. From 2020 onwards all new styles added to our collection will be exclusively Italian bio-acetate. Most sunglasses are made from acetate due to its durability, flexibility and high quality; a natural material (made from cotton wood fibres) but with added oil-based plasticisers. Bio-acetate? Those plasticisers are entirely biodegradable meaning the material is 100% plant based with no extra nasties. And equally important, all of our sunglasses are vegan and cruelty-free.

The factory we work with undergoes a regular third-party ethical trade audit (SMETA)

encompassing all aspects of responsible business practice, covering Sedex’s four pillars of Labour, Health and Safety, Environment and Business Ethics to ensure adherence to ethical trading and corporate social responsibility. They also make great quality eyewear!

Our boxes are FSC MIX certified, from responsible sources. All our print materials come from recycled paper stock. For all single orders that we send out we use 100% recycled mailer envelopes, which can either be reused (best option!) or recycled after use. Where you see our eyewear in a store, all supplied point of sale materials is made from upcycled wood and recycled cardboard.

For every delivery we make to a customer we put £1.00 towards offsetting the CO2 cost of that delivery. As a business we also have to fly in elements of our product from around the world. We therefore offset those journeys too by working with not-for-profit Atmosfair to offset all of our C02 emissions through the financing of Wonderboxes in Nigeria and Rwanda. These incredible cooking pots will retain heat for a very long time, therefore reducing the need to burn fuel for heating and thus also lowering further CO2 emissions.

Small steps, big change

It’s easy to say, but being a sustainable, ethical fashion brand is much harder to put into practice. We’ve started by putting this mission at the heart of everything we do. From the products we make, the materials we use, the business practices we employ and the people we select to work with, we’re working hard to walk the talk. We’re not there yet, but ultimately, our goal is to create a business that puts people and the planet first. It’s okay to start small. We stand by the belief that creating a real, lasting impact will come from all of us doing things imperfectly, rather than few doing it perfectly. Small steps, big change.

What’s next? We’re aiming to only take positive steps forwards and we see this as a journey that we very much want to share with you. Things change fast, meaning we might not always know of the latest solution to a problem across our brand. If you’ve seen or heard of something which you think we could – or should – be looking at, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch at hello@palaeyewear.com

pala premium eco-friendly sunglasses

Awards and Accolades

We are proud to be recognised by these fantastic platforms. Do you know of an award you think we should put ourselves forward for?

AB_SLA
Brands-That-Give-Back
Eco-Age
pebble-sticker
AB_SLA
Brands-That-Give-Back
Eco-Age
pebble-sticker