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Blowing $305 on a pair of non-designer shades makes us shudder. In fact, we're more likely to make a slow and steady backup before the sales pitch can cause a judgement sway. But what if we knew that snatching those sunnies might open the eyes of three other people in the world? What if buying what we already buy actually does more good than harm? That, friends, is the "reason" behind RAZŌN.
Inspired directly by the Toms Shoes, RAZŌN is a Miami-based sunglass company with an agenda to take the luxury market by storm. For every pair of cleverly priced shades you buy (they're marked at $305, after all), RAZŌN has teamed up with eyewear company Eyejusters to donate three pairs of adjustable readers to people who might not have had the opportunity to see clearly before. The sunnies, which just launched this week for WMC, are handcrafted locally and made entirely out of wood, so no two pairs are alike.
Now don't go bunching RAZŌN up with the basketfull of do-good brands that have sprouted from the West Coast. The guys behind it are crazy about flaunting their local badges, and are set on establishing RAZŌN as a brand that captures what Miami is, not the glammed up version everyone sees in travel guides. We sat down Sebastian Leguizamon, the founder of the company, to get the full story behind the brand, and to see just how he and his team are making Miami less shady, one pair of sunnies at a time.
You describe RAZŌN as a brand that represents Miami. What was your idea behind starting the brand?
Sebastian Leguizamon: I think it was back in September of 2013, I had started seeing other brands emerging from the west coast that really represented that lifestyle and culture. We live in the capital of the sun and we really don't have a home brand of sunglasses. I found that very odd. Since Miami is still growing, I felt that right now would be the perfect time. What I tell people is that Miami's not even in its renaissance. When you look at those renderings of what [Wynwood] is to become in the next four years, you're going to start seeing all these home brands emerge... they're reflecting the culture and that's what we want to do.
Even your logo points to Miami. Tell us about it.
SL: We wanted to incorporate the flamingo because that's our most iconic symbol. It has such an awesome history behind it, from the Flamingos that are still in Hialeah Park to, back in the 50s, when they would get spotted in Key Largo. This brand is really meant to give Miami an instrument to say this is what we represent as a city.
Tell us about your partnership with Eyejusters. What is it, and why decide to make this a main component of your brand?
SL: That was a direct inspiration from Tom's Shoes. In college, when I read about Blake Mycoskie and his simple concept of taking care of a human being just by consuming what [people] already consume. That business model could apply to everything. You could do it with phones, a wallet, water. The margins that all these brands are making is enough to cover another person. With us, we can cover three people because our technology has allowed us to do this.
Imagine it this way— In the U.K. you have one optometrist for every 10 thousand people. In a continent like Africa you have an optometrist for every 8 million people. So the answer is not to have more optometrists, it's to get rid of that problem so we can deliver faster... These lenses— and they look just like eye glasses but they have two nobs on the side*#8212; work because when you turn the nobs, it squeezes and curves the glass and by doing that it fixes your prescription. So you would do a normal test with the E's, but then you would adjust them yourself. Anyone can learn and it can be done in 5 minutes.
The team behind RAZŌN, from left to right: Sebastian Leguizamon, Rob Loschiavo, Mateo Carreno, Ashley Gonzalez, Daniel Botana, Victor Gomez, Johnny Pimentel
Are any other brands using this technology now?
SL: No, and that's why we're trying to raise awareness in the industry. Every single designer brand that makes eyewear, they're all made by the same company based out of Italy, Luxotica. They're like the monopoly of sunglasses... A pair of Cartier's that cost you $930, cost them $30 to make, so you have $900 as a margin. Just taking $50 out of that you can do what we're doing and help three people get corrective lenses. So this problem with getting people a billion eyeglasses within the next 5 years, it's a simple thing to fix.
So are you a nonprofit company?
SL: We're not a nonprofit company. We are a for-profit company. Why? We don't want to make it seem like we're a charity case. We want to show that all of these companies can do it too. We're a luxury lifestyle brand that [you can] feel good about.
Tell me about the design. What about it represents Miami?
SL: We thought, what is the most iconic design in the market and why is it iconic? And that's the aviator. It was famous 50 years ago and it's still famous now. We wanted to do the same thing with this pair. We wanted to make it so that Miami has it's own modern aviator. It would be bold yet laid-back. It would make your face look relaxed yet empowered.
Your glasses are made entirely out of wood. What kinds do you use?
SL: The first ones to be unveiled are the [pairs made of] rosewood, ebony and bamboo. Every single one of them is different because of the wood and all of our packaging is made by here by hand at a local wood shop.
Wood isn't really something associated with Miami. Why use that over any other material?
SL: It was a very easy decision. I'm very against any plastic based product because it's [made out of] oil. It's a huge industry that's not helping our world and it would have been very hypocritical for a team that believes in progression to have something like that.
Do you have plans on adding some more styles?
SL: Yes. Every season we want to release a design in collaboration with a local tastemaker, someone who has made an impact in the city. We would love to do something with a Miami model, or a singer, or an artist. That way people can really give into the respect that the design deserves. I think that's the mistake that a lot of brands make. They want to launch 10 to 15 designs. If you put so much time and effort into one design, let it be iconic. Let the people love it. Surpass their expectations every season.
You have a big plan for your launch. Tell us about it.
SL: Over the next 30 days we have a huge campaign with different DJs and celebrities that we want to get involved and really build the hype, even after Winter Music Conference. We want people to reserve theirs and host a more intimate event the month after with all the bloggers to personally deliver their glasses. We want to make it an overall experience and really meet face-to-face with locals. There are a lot of brands who start out in New York and L.A. but they get so big that they're not in their cities often.
Are you focused only on marketing to locals or do you have your sights set globally?
SL: For us to solve the program globally, we need as many people to know what we're doing, but we want the community to get behind it first. If someone was creating a Miami brand, I would feel like they sold out if they just blew up and left.
While the shades currently aren't up for purchase, you can currently reserve your pair on their website.
· RAZŌN [Official Site]