I’m a total sucker for natural materials. You can go to great lengths to synthesise and replicate them, but the warmth and texture found in gifts of the earth is inimitable. They have a certain magnetism to them, especially in this day and age where most things around us are soulless and plasticky. Think naturally patinated leather, knitted wool, antique brass, grainy wood and the like.
Now, I’ve been a Wayfarer faithful for many years, but the idea of wooden sunglasses sounded compelling enough for the Ray-Bans to be put aside for a little while.
Sasha’s wooden sunglasses are an interesting mix of novel, sustainable and quirky. They are undeniably very cool in concept and instant conversation starters, because the distinctiveness of wood as a material really pulls you in. Just a single, careful glance shows that a large part of work has been done by hand, and overall finish is pretty good. Even colours are applied in a way that the warmth, grain and texture of wood continue to shine through. I felt a certain joy while wearing them about, which was probably a mini-celebration of the victory of natural over synthetic.
Their catalogue has something for everyone, whether you’re in the mood for classic or funky. I also feel they make for quite a nice gift; though keep in mind that many of their styles wear somewhat large. Of the ones I tried, the Nore is the winner for me in terms of classic, conservative styling as well as a good fit on my long and narrow face.
I picked out three different models to get to know the brand and its products:
- Nore (Wayfarer style frame, Dark brown with lighter temples)
- Torpo (Round frame, Mustard)
- Bromma (Wider wayfarer style frame, Green grey with lighter temples)
Each of the pairs are made from American Walnut, which is one of the harder varieties. Woods used by Sasha are a mix of up-cycled and ethically sourced. Lenses are made from cellulose, and are polarised with UV protection.
The current brand catalogue contains 15 different styles in all, with each style being offered with different finish and colour options. Save for 2, each style has 4 finish / colour options to choose from, which is pretty good variety. Overall, the range is quite diverse, catering to different sensibilities, from the simple to the experimental.
First impressions about wooden sunglasses
When I first picked up Sasha’s sunglasses, I was taken aback by how light they were. I was expecting them to feel heavier, but I think the choice of walnut wood allows the weight to be kept low while imparting hardness. They feel well put together. It’s natural to wonder if they are sturdy enough, but the initial tactile interaction with the frames doesn’t give you much reason to doubt it.
The sunglasses put a smile on my face because it is a really nifty idea after all.
The full package: Quirky and sustainable
It comes as no surprise that the case accompanying the sunglasses is made of wood too. But it is done differently than you would expect. It is a veneer lined with fabric inside, giving it quite a unique look.
A more traditional, substantial box is also available that works better as a gift box, which can be purchased additionally. I like that the shades and textures of their packaging are done in a way that you keep feeling you are interacting with natural materials. Each pair and each box will display individual variations, the charm of which is something we’ve almost forgotten in times of ice-cold mass production.
Natural grain and texture complemented by handicraft
Looking closer is where the fun begins. The fact that the surface is not slippery smooth to the touch is a really good thing, making the sunglasses feel very real. Running your fingers along different facets starts to show you glimpses of handiwork. This is most pronounced around the bridge and nose pads, and this human touch is perhaps my single most favourite thing about these glasses.
As I mentioned before, colours are applied with a lot of discretion so that the natural feel of wood is not lost. The sensibility at work here can also be attributed in large part to founders Anisha and Satyam Singla’s family being in the furniture business for over 30 years. This allows Sasha to use proprietary finishes and paints that may not be available to other players in the market.
Living with it: Durability, fit and style
While the Bromma is too large for my face, unfortunately, I alternated between Nore and Torpo for about a fortnight. In this time, they didn’t feel delicate at any point and complemented most outfits and occasions nicely. Nore is the relatively sober one of the two and I found myself reaching for it a wee bit more. However, it was the Torpo which caught the fancy of others more and had them asking me questions.
The one place where I did face a limited issue was with the lenses. When looking at a digital screen through the lenses, hues of colours fluctuate as you change the viewing angle. I experienced this with all three pairs. On bringing this to the brand’s notice, I was told they are speaking to their suppliers to find a solution.
When you’re generally outdoors wearing the glasses, this issue doesn’t come up unless you’re looking at your mobile phone or your car’s information display. This particular Nore model, in fact, has a lovely sepia tint that makes you look at your surroundings like an art film.
All in all, I felt Sasha’s wooden sunglasses are a pretty good addition to one’s accessory collection, for when you’re looking to do something offbeat and fun. They aren’t too serious, are made of a charming material and are available in a host of styles.
How does this Indian brand match up to the Ray-Ban Wayfarer?
Hmm, the big question. Now here’s the straight answer – if you’re going to compare them one-to-one, Ray-Ban probably wins. The Wayfarer feels more solidly built and has better lenses. Whereas Sasha’s wooden sunglasses are lighter and most styles are about 30% cheaper than a Ray-Ban Wayfarer.
But that’s not the point. Ray-Ban can’t make something like this because it isn’t possible to industrialise. It needs to be worked and carved by hand, so it will remain a more niche thing, but also have greater individual character. And I think that’s something worth considering.
Pricing and buying
Sasha’s wooden sunglasses are priced between ₹5,400-₹6,800, depending on the model, and come with a case and lens cleaning cloth. Regarding the ones we covered, Nore is ₹5,400, Bromma is ₹5,800, Torpo is ₹6200.
For accessing their catalogue or placing an order, you can check out their Instagram page and drop a message there. They are regularly part of pop-ups and exhibitions around India – you can get all the updates on their Instagram page. An online store is in the works and is expected to be running later this year.
I also recommend reaching out to them to get a sense about sizes before you buy a pair. They’re usually quick to answer, and these communications are personally overseen by founders Anisha and Satyam Singla, which is the indie brand way – honest, transparent and personal.
Sasha’s wooden sunglasses are a great example of an offbeat idea executed well. They are also testimony to the improving design sensibilities and risk-taking appetite of smaller, indie brands that I spoke about here.
From my experience, these sunglasses definitely don’t go unnoticed. Wood is a real champion material and it does steal the show. That isn’t a bad thing, just something to keep in mind. In that regard, as I mentioned earlier, Nore is my pick of the lot for its versatility and timelessness. It keeps shock value low, and if you are factoring sustainability into your list of reasons to pick up a pair, a style like Nore will likely stick around with you longer. The round Torpo, on the other hand, works really well as something more modern and contemporary.
Who’s it for: Anyone looking to have a bit of fun with their look, wanting to keep it fresh
Talking point: It’s made of what?! Seriously?
Best thing about it: Rapid simplification of the touch-wood process
One thing I’d change: Lens quality (I’m told this is in the works)
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