Eyes, eyes baby: sustainability meets style in Sasha’s wooden sunglasses
Delhi-NCR-based Sasha is making waves with wooden sunglasses that offer style, fit, function, and are environment-friendly.
Aviators, round frames, wayfarers, square styles, mirrored lenses…the options are many when you go shopping for sunnies. But what if this style statement could be non-plastic, skin-friendly, water-resistant, unbreakable, and most importantly – eco-friendly? Say hello to Sasha, which offers on-trend sunglasses made from wood sourced through environmentally sustainable means.
The idea of wood-framed sunglasses was on 31-year-old Satyam Singla’s mind for three years. Satyam, who has been associated with his family business of manufacturing and exporting furniture, was keen to use wood differently. With guidance from Darshan Singla, his father and co-founder, and leveraging his wife and co-founder Anisha Singla’s expertise in the financial sector, Satyam launched Sasha's first collection of 15 styles of curated sunglasses in August 2018 on social media. They sold as many as 50 pairs from the first collection.
There has been no looking back for the bootstrapped startup. Sasha, which sells a pair of handmade wood sunglasses between Rs 5,400 and Rs 6,800, claims sales worth Rs 3.5 lakh through their Instagram and Facebook pages alone since inception.
These sunglasses –made of walnut wood and available in 15 different styles (each in four different finishes) - are also available at curated fashion and lifestyle events. “Sasha brings you the best of our craftsmen’s years of understanding and experience,” Satyam says.
His co-founder, Anisha, agrees that the use of wood makes the ubiquitous accessory unexpected and unique. “Sasha focuses on retaining the natural grains of wood, taking it beyond fashion to being an intrinsic part of your personality,” she says.
Wood is not malleable and creating a design that is fashionable, comfortable, and of good quality was the biggest challenge.
“With no prior knowledge and expertise in the eyewear industry, the biggest challenge was to get the designs right,” Satyam says. Sasha’s craftsmen spent a year on researching and development to overcome this problem.
Sasha uses a mix of waste wood from their manufacturing business and wood is sourced through environmentally sustainable and legal means from all across the country. High-quality, UV-protected and polarised lenses are imported from China.
The other challenge was scaling production. Each sunglass goes through a series of production processes; on an average, one craftsman makes 15-20 pairs in a week. The co-founders overcame this problem by hiring eight full-time craftsmen.
Sasha provides their customers a “hands-on experience”, allowing customers to choose up to five pairs to “try-and-buy”. “This service comes at no additional cost and the customer only pays for the pair that he or she purchases,” Anisha says.
The try-and-buy service, which is free, is available only in Delhi-NCR right now. “The purchase happens on the spot. Our representative closes the sale and leaves,” she adds.
Darshan, 65, who overlooks Sasha's business, is an interior designer and President and owner of the Mac Group, which caters to the interior designing needs of various companies and also manufactures and exports wooden furniture. His unit has been manufacturing wooden furniture, accessories, and handicrafts for 40 years.
Satyam, who studied marketing at Royal Holloway University, London, joined his father's company as Director of Operations before launching Sasha. Anisha, 25, has a master’s degree in actuarial science from Cass Business School and she brings her expertise in risk management and finance, along with her passion for international fashion trends and design, to the company.
Sasha initially had only two craftsmen making sunglasses. Today, they are a team of 18 - the three co-founders and 15 artisans, who have over a decade of experience in woodwork.
An eye on the market
A study conducted in March 2018 by online fashion platform Myntra revealed that the fashion and lifestyle industry in India is now worth $100 billion and is expected to grow by 15-20 percent in the next five years.
In a world that’s looking for sustainability, wood-framed sunglasses seem to be the right pick. Brands like Woodies, Woodzee, ShadeTree, Grown, and Wudn have made huge inroads into the sunglasses market globally.
In India, Kolkata-based Woodgeek Store, and Bangalore-based Tetewoods and Wood Works inc also produce wooden eyewear, but Satyam believes the fact that “each piece is handmade in our workshop and that's what sets Sasha apart”.
Sasha’s immediate plan is to launch its e-commerce website – it is expected to be up in a month’s time. The website will help the startup, which currently focuses on Delhi-NCR, expand pan-India and increase sales.
Over the long term, the co-founders are keen to expand their product range and offer customisation options. The idea is simple: frame your face in style while blocking out ’dem rays and do right by the environment.