TORONTO-BASED DESIGNER TAKES MATTERS INTO HER OWN HANDS
Story by Laura Chang
Photos by Jaclyn Locke
Kathy Tran was fed up. Retailers and designers had failed to meet her minimal needs in eyewear; pair after pair slipped off her nose and created uncomfortable friction with her cheeks. Sunglasses fell short of achieving their number one purpose: shielding the eyes from the sun.
While some may accept what is given and decide c’est la vie, this constant dissatisfaction sparked something in Tran. Who was she to accept anything less than perfect? Upon learning the industry was dominated by the same generic fit and dimensions in eyewear, Tran realised that ill-fitting eyewear was a widespread problem with few alternative solutions. “People have different face shapes,” Tran says of her findings, “Which is why it was strange to me what little variation we have in eyewear. ”
Refusing to accept that “one size fits all” formula, Tran began developing an original design for eyewear while completing her MBA. Years of research and experimentation resulted in her innovative solution, KayTran Eyewear, which launched on February 2nd with an exclusive collection at the Pink Eye Optical boutique in Toronto. Each pair is handcrafted individually with one hundred percent Italian acetate, forgoing the traditional methods of using plastic molds to manufacture sunglasses. “Handcrafting allows us to be detailed down to the very millimeter, which makes a big difference,” she says of her unique fit, “Especially with the lens, angles of the temple, narrowed bridge, and elevated nose pads.” Gone are the days of struggling to keep your sunglasses on while balancing movement – Tran’s “L.B.T.” adjustments form a pair of sunglasses that perch effortlessly on your face. (L.B.T. stands for: Lens Curve Reduction; Bridge Adjustments; and Temple Angles Widened).
“It’s important how your sunglasses feel,” explains Tran, “You need to try them on to understand what the unique fit means for you.” For those who have experienced the thrill of a flawless find when trying on a pair of shoes or jeans – the kind that drives one to buy multiple pairs at a time – it’s the ideal fit that didn’t exist until you took the plunge to try them on. As with these sunglasses, some people may not recognize their troubles with eyewear until faced with the perfect pair. It is the point of no return.
Innovative steps forward rarely happen without a struggle. “It wasn’t easy at the start,” reminisces Tran on her experience, “The industry is so used to working with the same face shapes, so I was faced with some resistance.” She persevered, proving that the time honoured combination of determination and vision (no pun intended) does lead to success.
Tran’s fondness for her line of sunglasses is obvious in the names alone. “Each pair is named after one of my friends,” laughs Tran, “Their namesake mirrors their personalities.” There is the “Cecilia”, which she describes as “chic diva”, or the teardrop-shaped “Aiden”, which has a unisex and athletic feel. Despite these distinctions, the 2012 line of sunglasses is inspired by simple and nostalgic styles. Fuss-free and functional, the sunglasses promise to be as low-maintenance as possible.
Future collections will continue be inspired by classic fashion, as an ongoing evolution in style, shape and colour. Tran also hints at aspirations to work with optical glasses as well… and the world will continue to wait in anticipation for that collection.
As we admire and coo at the beautiful silhouettes, we must also remain aware of what else the brand stands for. KayTran Eyewear is another milestone toward recognizing diversity as a solid part of the retail demographic. As different characteristics and shapes are acknowledged more and more by retailers and designers, a refusal to settle for “one size fits all” is the right place to start.