Sunglasses protect your eyes from harmful rays, they make you look undeniably cool and, as Carla D'Angelo knows, the practical fashion accessory is also a great medium for artwork.
D'Angelo, a North Vancouver resident and eyewear designer, founded Claudia Alan Inc. in 2003. The company is best known for its Aya collection of sunglasses, readers and optical frames featuring decorative imagery by local First Nations artist Corrine Hunt, who co-designed the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic medals.
In March, Claudia Alan is releasing three new sunglasses styles designed in collaboration with Hunt.
For ladies, Harmony is a large wrap-style frame featuring a wolf, orca and raven in metal embellishment on the side. For men, Oliver, which D'Angelo describes as "a very handsome style," is a metal aviator with an eagle design on the temple. Hunter is this season's unisex style, inspired by the wayfarer silhouette but "a little bit larger and more contemporary than the traditional '60s wayfarer," explains D'Angelo. The style, which features bamboo arms etched with an eagle design, comes in both a trendy matte frame and the more traditional shiny black.
"We didn't want to miss the market on the shiny black because that's always a staple, but we're bringing it in a matte red as well," D'Angelo says.
The idea for the Aya collection came to D'Angelo about 10 years ago when she first met Hunt at a gift show.
"I loved the esthetic of her art and what she stood for and when I talked to her I just got a sense of this warm, compassionate person," she recalls.
It wasn't until a few years later that she approached Hunt about the possibility of collaborating on an eyewear collection. She had no idea Hunt had received the high-profile commission to co-create the 2010 Olympic medals because the news was embargoed at the time.
Although the Aya collection has a distinct Pacific Northwest flavour, D'Angelo says the designs are appreciated outside the Vancouver region.
"They've got a lot of popularity in California and in New York," she says, noting her products are sold in the gift shop at the Smithsonian museums in New York City and Washington, D.C. In addition to creating eyewear, the Claudia Alan company makes philanthropy a priority. Partial proceeds from the sale of all Aya eyewear and accessory items are donated to the OneXOne First Nations School Breakfast Program, which provides healthy food to First Nations children, many of them living in remote communities where food costs are higher.
"It helps over 3,000 children now during the school year to get breakfast," D'Angelo says, going on to explain why she chose OneXOne as her beneficiary.
"With the Aya line, because I'm not First Nations, I wanted to of course recognize Corrine and compensate accordingly, but I felt like I should also give back to the First Nations community," she says. "My mission has always been to create beautiful products that make a difference and give back."
Aya sunglasses retail for $39-$50. The entire Aya line, as well as Claudia Alan's other eyewear products and accessories, are available at claudiaalanstore.com.