The Australian sunglasses brands you need to know

They're the last things you grab before you leave the house and the saving grace for anyone recovering from one two many the night before. Suffice to say, Aussies love a good pair of sunnies.

Which is probably why some of the best pairs of frames are now being designed, and in some cases made, right here in our sunburnt land of sweeping plains.

Boutique labels Dot Dot, AM Eyewear, staple ranges South Cali and Local Supply, just to name a few, are now taking up serious retail space that was once dominated by big international brands.

Turkish designer Sener Besim has gone even further. Picked by Woolmark to represent Australia over at menswear trade fair Pitti Uomo, the Melbourne-based label can boast being carried in high-end stores Dover Street Market in the UK and Colette in Paris.

Reaching a critical mass

And while cult labels have popped up here and there (such as Ksubi's short-lived collection at the peak of their successes), there has never been quite the same critical mass that now exists of designers producing quality eyewear that's both aesthetically excellent and won't cost you a month's rent.

And according to Michael Koutroulis, founder of Melbourne-based sunnies brand Dot Dot, the boom in Australian designers tackling eyewear – both sunnies and traditional specs– can be summed up in one word: selfies.

"Everybody needs glasses whether it be optical or simply sunglasses for UV protection and I feel we are all looking for a pair that expresses our personality," he says.

"In saying this I feel like the market has been amplified by social media. Glasses are easier to catch wind of online rather than other accessories as they are always on people's faces getting more attention with each post."

Broadening the affordability

At South Cali, the drive to start their own label was to give Aussie punters an option of sunnies that would last the test of time style-wise and remain affordable to a bigger audience without skimping on the quality.


"When we launched five years ago there was a gap in the market and no one was really doing affordable and great value eyewear," explains co-founder Simon te Hennepe.

"I think it took businesses a while to understand how active the Australian lifestyle is, and that the distance from trending locations in the eyewear industry such as the US and EU were just so far away it made it financially less viable to import the cheaper units across.

"For us, Australia has such a harsh and ever changing environment that it needed affordable and polarised lenses, and we've found it to be an amazing audience to serve."

Quality without breaking budgets

South Cali's line of simple, fun eyewear is a pleasant disruption to an industry that can quite often get caught up with overzealous pricing.

Sitting at the $50-per-pair mark, you'd be suspicious that the brand was skimping on something integral. But that isn't the case.

"We approached the issue differently, just by stripping back the margins and going direct to the public."

The online goldmine

Koutroulis launched Dot Dot on a similar platform, tapping into online sales that enabled them to control pricing and overheads. But with the huge response to Dot Dot's artisanal approach to sunglasses (each pair is handmade in the city of Sabae, Japan, by a craftsman simply known as "The Master") there are talks to move into bricks and mortar retail.

"Initially the plan was to be sold exclusively online however some retailers have begun to approach us so we'll be releasing the stockist list in the coming months," says Koutroulis.

"I think it is important for customers to experience a pair of Dot Dot in real life to appreciate the quality."

He is quick to allay, however, any concerns that this might change the brand's small batch approach to design.

"I think it is important to do small batches to ensure the quality is at its highest however we have many designs we would love to bring to life."

Eying off the local talent

It would be remiss not to mention those brands that paved the way for the current market. Le Specs, which has been a mainstay since the '70s and experienced a recent revival among a younger generation, as well as AM Eyewear have been steady sellers, watching other brands come and go.

For Simon Ponnusamy, who launched AM Eyewear 15 years ago, the current revolution has been a refreshing change of pace.

"I think it's great so many new Australia eyewear brands emerging and I hope it leads to more consumers thinking of an independent brand when they make their next purchase," he says.

"Seventy per cent of the global eyewear industry is owned by three foreign companies and most of the revenue from the sale of eyewear in this country heads offshore. There's so much talent in this country and we need to support it. It's like organic food, in some cases it may cost a little more but in the long run, it's going to make life a whole lot better."