“The time felt right for the move into optical”

OT  spoke to John Pritchard, founder of Pala Eyewear, about the launch of the brand’s first optical collection

John Pritchard
This spring, Pala Eyewear launched its first optical collection, complementing its existing sunglasses range.

The B Corp-certified brand creates frames using bio-based acetate, and uses revenue from sales of its eyewear to fund eye care projects across Africa.

Pala is currently working towards the goal of funding a new vision centre in Sierra Leone, in partnership with Vision Action.

John Pritchard, founder of Pala Eyewear, gave OT a behind-the-scenes insight into the new collection, the collaboration with Vision Action, and broader initiatives the B Corp has recently been involved in.

What was behind the decision to launch an optical collection?

It’s always been part of our plan for Pala’s development to offer a more complete eyewear collection. After seven years building our brand, and a collection of sunglasses that feel proudly ‘Pala’ – the time felt right for the move into optical. On a strategic level it enables us to grow our customer acquisition and form a framework for growth that isn’t as seasonal as sunglasses. Plus on a personal level, I wear glasses and was fed up wearing competitor ones!

Timamu Emerald
‘Timamu’ in emerald by Pala Eyewear, John Pritchard’s favourite frames in the new optical collection

How long has this collection been in development?

We started forming ideas for the optical collection in July last year. Working with our British designer, who has long been part of the Pala family, we landed on the decision to create an initial capsule collection for launch in 2023, with a view to expand our offering longer term too.

On a personal level, I wear glasses and was fed up wearing competitor ones


What is different about launching an optical collection to sunglasses? Particularly with a sustainable approach at heart?

Materially there is no change in terms of the sustainability credentials of the frame. We use plant-based bio-acetate.

Our sun and optical propositions are very similar, and deliberately so. We wanted to offer the same high standard with our new frames that our customers trust us to deliver with our sunglasses.

Eco-friendly eyewear is thankfully much more commonplace now. Awareness, education, and consumer confidence in how their purchase decisions make a difference is building – but there’s always more that can be done.

Using our business revenue, we fund eye care projects across Africa, via our charity partner Vision Action. We’re currently working on our most ambitious fundraising project to date, to finance the build and set-up of a vision centre in Sierra Leone.

We’re excited to see the appetite within the optical industry and continue to use Pala to champion ethical opportunities to deliver impact.

Could you tell us more about the bio-acetate material?

We use Laes Biocell and Mazzucchelli M49 for our bio-acetate and depending on which, you are looking at being 64% or 68% plant-based respectively. The material is certified biodegradable too.

What stage is the project to build a new vision centre in Sierra Leone with Vision Action at? What goes into a project like this?

Building a new vision centre in Africa takes quite some co-ordination. We’re responsible for raising funds to get the centre built and furnished with everything needed to operate. Vision Action is ensuring government, NGOs and partners are all working together to provide a long and lasting solution. Other partners are also on hand to secure training of optometrists and educational programmes in the community to encourage people to use the centre.

We’re currently a third of a way towards our funding target and anticipate reaching the goal by the end of 2024. The new centre will be in the Tonkolili District, a Northern Province of Sierra Leone, and will serve an estimated population of over 200,000 people.

How do the projects that Pala launches and support enable long term sustainable change in communities?

Being involved in creating infrastructure means that Pala is very much tackling long term solutions. As an example, we refurbished and equipped a vision centre in Chinsali, Zambia in 2017 and in a recent update learnt that more than 26,000 patients had now passed through the centre. That’s 26,000 more people being empowered by having better vision and the economic advantages that brings.

Once the projects are up and running, Vision Action ensures that local government funds are used to continue to support the ongoing operations of the centres.

Being involved in creating infrastructure means that Pala is very much tackling long term solutions


As the frames are available through stockists and online, could you share how Pala ensures patient safety in online ordering?

For our online orders we only work with single vision and transition lenses, so do not involve ourselves with more complicated prescriptions where additional measurements are required. If a customer has a valid prescription within the last two years, then we’re able to work with them. We collaborate with a local optician in Sussex to provide the required service and fitting to ensure our customers receive the very best results, and safely.

Anansa Topaz
The fashion-forward ‘Anansa’ frame from Pala Eyewear’s optical collection

For those in practice: how would you recommend describing the optical collection to patients and consumers?

The collection is 21 SKUs across five styles, so very much a considered capsule collection. We have the more familiar and classic styles of our round ‘Moyo’ and rectangle ‘Kazunda’ frames contrasting with the fashion forward styles of our ‘Anansa’ cat’s eye frame and oversized ‘Ayo.’

The fifth and final style is my personal favourite (because I wear them) – the ‘Timamu’ frame, which sits somewhere between a round and a square. There are tortoiseshells within the collection, but the balance is more towards subtle crystals and a few bold ones. So a little bit of everything to suit most tastes is how I would best describe it.

Outside of the new collection, could you tell us about the beach clean hosted by Pala Eyewear in Brighton this spring?

Pala is a B Corp ,which means we meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. Giving back to the community is also one of those commitments and to coincide with B Corp Month in March we decided to rally together other B Corps from the Sussex area and local community to carry out a beach and street clean.

We had over 110 people turn up on a day of rare sunshine and it was a great success, not just for the huge piles of rubbish we picked, but for the opportunity to meet others and have a bit of a ‘feel good’ activity for a few hours. We’ve picked this up with the council afterwards to continue the momentum into helping clean some up some of the other local ‘hotspots’ too.