Morten & Mai-Britt from Monkey Glasses
I came across Monkey Glasses a few weeks back when I realised I hadn’t had my eyes tested in a few years and I was definitely in need to go. Whilst looking into the cost of getting my eyes retested and the likely occurrence of the need for new glasses I realised I didn’t know of any sustainable frame companies or whether they actually existed. After a bit of digging around, I came across Monkey Glasses and I’m so glad I did.
They were founded in 2009 in Denmark, and their ethos is focused on “looking good while doing good”. The ‘doing good’ part is through -a closed loop, zero waste system that gives old glasses to a centre in India whilst also giving to the Orangutans whose habitat is quickly diminishing, Monkey glasses have all the ethical and sustainable boxes checked. You can check out more about them here.
As you probably are aware by now my aim with the Beyond The Label segment is to help bridge the gap between the product and the people behind it. To be able to understand why they made it, what their struggles were, how they spend their day, their favourite book. So here it is, a quick snippet into the world beyond Monkey Glasses in the shape of a quick interview with the Founders – Morten and Mai-Britt. Enjoy!
What made you start Monkey Glasses?
We both have minds that never stop creating new ideas, and since Mai-Britt came from the fashion industry, and Morten had two optician stores, so it made perfect sense for us to join forces for this project.
Our vision was, to make eyewear that was fashionable, as well as affordable and sustainable at the same time. We started looking for manufacturers and suppliers that could comply with the guidelines in UN’s Global Compact on corporate social responsibility and began studying sustainable materials. We got very excited when we found biodegradable raw materials like acetate, which consists of more than 95 % cotton, which we thought was perfect for the kind of eyewear we wanted to make. We wanted to create a concept, that besides creating cool eyewear, combined respect for the people involved in making the glasses, with taking care of the environment and our planet.
Another important issue for us was, “Save The Orangutan”.
A project that works to save and protect the thousands of wild orangutans, that are victims of the destruction of their rainforest home. By supporting this project, there would be a benefit for someone that needed the support, if it went well for monkeyglasses©. It brings us great joy to support this project and to follow Mai-Britts adoptive orangutan Cinta’s way back into the wild, where she belongs.
What has been the most challenging thing you have uncovered since beginning?
The most challenging thing has been being a first mover when it comes to making sustainable eyewear. The eyewear industry is huge, and finding the right sustainable solutions for our products and production, as well as finding manufacturers that could comply with our demands, has been challenging, and it still is.
We believe, that it is very important for the optician’s and the consumers to understand how and why monkeyglasses© is a sustainable brand. This led us to make our Closed Loop, that explains the whole life of one pair of monkeyglasses©.
Within the ethical fashion community, there's a big question that we ask which is 'who made my clothes?'. In the scope of Monkey Glasses, who made your glasses? Can you tell us a bit about them?
Our production is not located in one county only. The leather we use for our sustainable leather frames are manufactured in Italy, and the raw materials for the cotton acetate are from Italy as well, we use hinges for the frames manufactured in Germany, and the frames are put together in Hongkong. It is a big puzzle, and each of our frames is held in the hand more than 200 times before it reaches the end consumers.
Since we have no sub-suppliers, we work in close cooperation with our manufacturers and suppliers. They all comply with the guidelines in UN’s Global Compact on corporate social responsibility, and we are in contact with the manufacturers on a daily basis, and visits the factories several times a year, to make sure that our demands on high standards are maintained and that everything is as it should be. – latest visit was in March 2017.
Having our production in Hongkong is necessary to maintain the high quality and fulfil our vision of making sustainable products affordable to everyone.
Production overseas is often misunderstood, as being poor and cheap, but we actually tried to take the production of some of our things home, which was impossible due to lack of skills, machines, techniques etc.
We are very proud of all of our manufacturers and the remarkable work they do.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
Listen to your gut, in all situations in life.
One book everyone should read? why?
The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes. It is such a remarkable story and very well written.
Where do you envision Monkey Glasses in the future?
We hope to see our products worldwide and to have a bigger range of sustainable products.
What inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
When design, production and demand go hand in hand. And of course, seeing our products worn by the end consumers, in combination with seeing our planet and the people on it in such bad shape – It makes us want to do a difference.
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
Mai-Britt does yoga every morning, followed by a morning within the park with our dog Nelly. Morten likes to start the day by running. We always walk or ride our bikes to work, in the centre of Copenhagen. It is such a nice way to start the day, and good for health as well as the environment.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
The Danish brand Soft gallery – They make the most fun, cute and high-quality children’s clothing. They are GOTS certificated (Global Organic Textile Standard)
– Read more about the certificate here: http://www.global-standard.org/
and here: http://www.global-standard.org/information-centre/gotsfilm.html#dk