In this guest article for Urban Times, carpenter-turned-designer Colin Balls explains how he started his label and what his plans for the future are. Colin Leslie will be one of the designers donating from his range for Bid for Better on the 13th of December. Get saving to get your hands on a pair of bamboo glasses!
I founded Colin Leslie, the bamboo eyewear brand, in 2009 as a result of an accident that I had while working on a building site. I have been a bench joiner and carpenter for more than 30 years. When I broke one ankle and sprained the other, I was practically immobile for nearly 12 weeks. During this time I needed an alternative way to produce an income for myself, and for the future given the fact that in another 10 years I would probably be unable to continue working on roofs and walking over uneven grounds.
I have done a lot of traveling around Asia; while in Thailand I noticed that you could buy prescription glasses, for as little as 300 baht (about £6). So I started with selling tinted reading glasses in various designs. During my convalescence I researched various eyewear designs and wanted to create something different.
So a year later, the eyewear brand Colin Leslie was created. I began by using bamboo specifically grown on bamboo plantations located in China and Hong Kong. For the frames I used recycled acetate and plastic products. I researched eyewear factories that had excellent working conditions, with the ability to produce the high end fashion while helping to save the environment.
The story so far
I am still amazed how quickly my brand has progressed in as little as 3 years; considering that I am firstly a carpenter/ joiner by trade. I do all the promoting and designing myself, as well as still working during the day on new building projects. Colin Leslie is now stocked in both brick-and-mortar stores and in online ethical fashion boutiques in the USA, Europe and Asia and two independent opticians in the UK (Southend-on-Sea and Elm Park, Hornchurch). My brand is worn by celebrities in the USA and UK, most recently BGT Finalists “Loveable Rogues” and singer song writer Olly Murs in 2013.
I have already showcased my eyewear at various fashion shows and catwalk events including the last two London fashion shows 2012 and have been sponsored by Miss Malibu 2012 contestant and “Eco-warrior” Lauren Selman.
Unfortunately, today’s world has become a throwaway society of landfills, high carbon foot prints and harmful environments. And I think that everybody can do their bit. We just need to purchase something eco, ethical, sustainable or recycled. Ethical can be fabulous.
My Favourite Colin Leslie range
My personal favourite range is the 100% Eco range called Eco Unit.T. They are made from bamboo temple arms and recycled acetate frames from ground down old unsold frames, which are injected into new moulds. Individually hand crafted, they come in draw string eyewear pouches, made from recycled plastic drinking water bottles, perfect for cleaning the glasses.
Colin Leslie in the Future
My plans are to build more awareness for my glasses being an ethical and recycled product and hopefully point towards a younger audience. I am planning to expand to more countries, as more fashionistas are becoming aware of the need to recycle and to protect the world we live in. I would also like to introduce more celebrities to my unique style of bamboo eyewear. Believe me, there are a lot of ethical loving celebrities out there!
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