The label was founded by two Stanford B-school pals, Robert Denning and Karlygash Burkitbayeva, who initially connected over a shared interest in how retail affects social matters. After watching countless brands exploit hot-button issues to sell products (Africa-supporting tees made in China, anyone?), the duo set forth to create a line that makes social issues central to the brand’s identity.
With no fashion or design background to speak of aside a serious love for sunnies, Denning and Burkitbayeva created the debut WL specs collection comprised of nine Wayfarer-inspired unisex pairs that “celebrate human achievement by integrating unique materials specific to a past or present human triumph.” Read: Each of the nine models has a name, story, and are crafted with a unique material in honor of a person, place, or organization that has contributed to social progress of some sort.
One of our faves is the N° 1, Children of California style, which honors our homestate’s gold-rush roots, our enviable place as the world’s 8th largest economy, and our global contribution of both the Frisbee and the hippie. And the material? Sustainably reclaimed California redwood, of course! Also notable is the N° 6, 525 Castro, which celebrates Harvey Milk’s camera shop located on 525 Castro Street and boasts a rainbow-colored neck strap.
“By drawing attention and awareness to extraordinary people, places, organizations, and events, we hope our glasses will provide inspiration to our customers and a reminder that we are all capable of greatness," explain the founders. "But we hope to do more than inspire: Whenever possible, we use materials that, in their procurement, inherently support the particular social cause we are celebrating. For example, the Teddy Roosevelt model features antlers auctioned off by Boy Scouts to benefit the National Parks.”
Photo: Courtesy of Westward Leaning