It might seem surprising, but wooden sunglasses have made the leap from slightly worthy eco-cult object to the heights of luxurious cool. What was rumoured to have started as a DIY hobby among West Coast skateboarders and surfers, with some pretty clunky results, is now all about smooth curves, light weights, beautiful, top-quality woods and – the Holy Grail of design today – the uniqueness that the natural grain brings to every pair. By and large this is still niche brand territory – though spotted on some mainstream names such as Beyoncé – but those brands have sprung up worldwide, from Shwood in Oregon and Woodys in Spain to Proof in Australia, via Finlay & Co and Wüdwük in the UK.
Not only are these high-quality, pleasingly tactile and often unisex products with flattering warm colours, but their makers pride themselves on the sustainability of their materials (usually either recycled or renewable non-threatened tropical hardwoods), and many of them contribute to charity from their sales. At the luxury end, aesthetics take over – as seen in the high-end examples developed over the past few years by the likes of Louis Vuitton and Maybach. Their styles are classic, but now Prada is taking the idea into the realms of high fashion. Wooden sunglasses with stitched leather uppers appeared on its spring 2015 catwalk – the commercial version is not quite so intricate, but just as fascinating.Two styles have been developed for the Prada Raw collection and will arrive in store in May. However, some have arrived in advance at four stores worldwide – London Old Bond Street, Milan Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Paris Faubourg St-Honoré and New York Fifth Avenue – presented in a wood-lined perspective “corner” display by Martino Gamper, who specialises in working with wood. The styles are made in a mix of black walnut and Malabar ebony and are widely contrasting, but both suitably retro – a softly trapezoid, very 1960s style (second picture) and a large, rounded version of the iconic Baroque frame (first picture), which has never looked or felt so sensuous. Both are £325 – looks good, feels good and hopefully does some good.