By Anna Harcourt, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A group of young Brazilian designers are turning scrap wood from construction sites into high-fashion sunglasses.The Zerezes sunglasses are part of the growing world of sustainable fashion, mixing trends in international design with local materials and production.
The small-scale business was founded in 2012 by four friends, Henrique Meyrelles, Luiz Eduardo Rocha, Victor Lanari and Hugo Galindo Soares when they were studying product design at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro).
The idea arose when the group was unable to buy wooden sunglasses online that would ship to Brazil. Armed with their knowledge of product design and woodworking tools, the students set out to make their own.
“In Rio there’s an amazing amount of second-hand wood, because there’s a lot of reconstruction going on,” said founder Luiz Eduardo Rocha.
“You have these old houses that were built with high-quality woods, the floorboards, the doors, the window frames, and in the renovations, it’s all getting pulled out and left on the street as rubbish,” Mr Rocha continued.
The rediscovered woods used by Zerezes include Jacaranda wood and Pau-Brasil (Brazilwood), species that are now protected from deforestation, as sustainability is a key concept of the brand.
“We wanted sustainability to be one of the integral aspects of the company. Not just an extra attribute, not just an add-on, it had to be a premise of the company,” Rocha explained.
Each pair of Zerezes from the rediscovered wood collection has the name of the street where the wood was found engraved on the arms.
“Each pair of sunglasses has its own unique character. And as we write the address where the wood was found on the sunglasses, they carry a personal story.”
The company also uses wood sourced from sustainable forests. The glasses are finished with castor bean resin, a biodegradable, sustainable and non-toxic material.
“We don’t use anything noxious, so it’s not dangerous for the people who are making the sunglasses. The people who are fabricating our sunglasses aren’t breathing in toxic fumes, they’re not putting their hands in poisonous chemicals.”
Mr Rocha believes the market for small-scale, sustainable fashion is growing as people’s mindset about consumerism changes. “People are starting to see the value in products that are made sustainably and responsibly. People understand that there’s a value in exclusivity, in unique materials,” he explained.
“Nowadays, we’re over-saturated, there’s too much waste, and I think people are wanting to change that, to slow it down. People don’t want to buy the same thing that everyone else has.”
Zerezes can be found at the company’s online store here, or in stores throughout Centro and Zona Sul (South Zone) of Rio de Janeiro.