As part of our founder interview series, we interview Richard Haines from SideRoot to learn what it’s like to run a company with his wife, Emelie, and their journey to wooden eyewear.
What first inspired you to create SideRoot?
Me and my wife Emelie wanted to start our own company with an emphasis on sustainability. We set about finding something that we could make out of eco friendly materials, something that everybody needed and something that was small enough that shipping wouldn’t cost the earth! After some research we decided upon sunglasses made from wood.
Why did you choose wood as your main medium for SideRoot eyewear?
Plastic is something that the world has unfortunately come to rely upon. It is used everywhere in our day-to-day lives, but there are some places where plastic can in fact be replaced with a more natural material. Eyewear is one of those places. In fact, wooden eyewear is lighter than plastic, less of an irritant to those with allergies and in some cases stronger than plastic.
What type of wood do you use for your frames, and where do you source it?
At the moment we use Rosewood, Maple, Walnut and Ebony. All of our woods are sourced from suppliers that hold FSC licenses, meaning that the woods are grown sustainably and on plantations where they are replaced as soon as they are cut down. None of our woods are exotic, though there is a common misconception surrounding both Rosewood and Ebony. Those names are in fact more of an umbrella term for certain species, with some being endangered and others not.
What is the meaning behind the name SideRoot?
The name SideRoot means to take a different path from everyone else, to take a different route, a side route if you want. Root is a play on words.
All of your frames are made individually by hand. How does this impact their style and functionality?
Each pair is an individual from its grain through to its final look. Our designs outline how the glasses will look but each pair has its own style in its own way. Functionality wise all our glasses pass through rigorous tests before we sell them so every pair functions according to our specification and most importantly they sit comfortably and block out the sun as they should.
How do you monitor your supply chain to ensure ethical production throughout the SideRoot life cycle?
We insist on seeing certificates from our wood suppliers to make sure that they adhere to the FSC license regulations. Our manufacturer is well known within the industry and ensures that no chemicals are used while our glasses are put together or that to much water is used during production. One problem that can arise with regards to water wastage is during the colouring process. For example, we colour our maple glasses black. There are techniques whereby a lot of water is used in the dying process, however, our glasses are painted using natural plant-based extracts.
Through the organization Trees For The Future, 10 trees are planted for every pair of SideRoot glasses sold. Why did you choose to partner with this organization, and what do they do?
When brainstorming ideas about how we wanted our company to be, one thing that went straight onto the table was the need to somehow give back what we take. I did some research into different organizations that we could potentially partner with and after speaking with them found that Trees for the Future was a perfect fit for us. They have made a massive difference in Sub Saharan Africa with their Forest Garden Programs. The difference between them and a lot of other charities is that they not only provide the seeds to grow more trees, they also provide education on how growing your own forest garden can in fact be long lasting and help not only your family but also your community. They teach people how to grow food, how to use the garden to feed their livestock and themselves, and also how to make things out of their garden that can then be sold in markets, giving the families an extra means of income. I really can’t emphasise how important this partnership is to us. As we continue to grow as a company we aim to increase the amount of trees we donate per pair of glasses sold.
What does ‘Ethical Fashion’ mean to you?
For us it means ensuring our designs and company produces as little waste as possible and uses no plastic. At the moment only the metal hinges, lenses and staples on our postbags are the only parts of our product which aren’t sustainable. Our glasses are made from wood, our box is cardboard, we use string, tissue paper and a note written on paper when we package and send our product to our customers.
How can we combat growing trends of ‘throwaway consumerism’ and ‘disposable fashion’?
I actually think there has been great headway made in this area recently with it becoming more and more apparent that people actually care about where things come from and perhaps most importantly where these things go once they are ‘used’. It helps that major brands are now starting to take notice and align themselves with this way of thinking. For us, it’s just a case of continuing to do what we do, continuing to try and educate people about the alternatives out there and I think eventually people will come around.
What is the one thing you wish everyone knew about SideRoot?
That we are just a husband and wife team that spends our evenings drawing glasses after we've put our kids to bed. That we love what we do and we love sharing our designs with the world and seeing people wearing the glasses that we have designed.