BELLEVUE, Wash. — The future of sunglasses is happening right now in the attic of a Bellevue barn.
And that future is as bright - as it is indestructible. Jensen Brehm and Nikolai Paloni develop, design and stomp test Ombraz Sunglasses inside a barn that belongs to Brehm’s grandmother near Lake Washington. It all started when Brehm broke his sunglasses:
"I was in India on a camel safari in the Sahara desert and someone sat on my sunglasses, and like what had happened a thousand times before the sidearms snapped off, so I just kinda Macgyvered a fix, I tied a piece of twine around the broken hinges and wrapped the twine around the back of my head," Brehm said.
The string worked better than arms:
"They didn't fall off my face, they stayed in place, when I didn't need ‘em I could put ‘em in my pocket without worrying about breaking them.” Friends, including Paloni, coveted the Macgyvered glasses, and the two decided they were onto something. They made what might be the world's most over the top crowdfunding video, thousands of dollars were raised, and Ombraz was born.
"Our target audience is hikers, backpackers, roadtrippers, van lifers, basically anyone that's on the go,” said Brehm.
The shades come in one frame style, three frame colors, and three lens types. Prescription lenses are available also. All held on with an adjustable string instead of easy-to-snap arms.
More styles are coming, but their ethos is 'keep it simple'.
“We're kind of an earthy organic brand, we focus on not being shiny, being functional and practical. They look great but we're not trying to make a huge fashion statement here,” said Brehm.
These sunglasses do make a sustainability statement: the company plants 20 trees for every pair sold.
And Ombraz got 'Editors Choice' in Backpackers Magazine in 2019.
These made-near-Seattle shades solve a uniquely PNW problem. “Wanna know a fun fact?” asked Brehm, “Seattle is the top per capita consumer of sunglasses in the country because the sun disappears for a week, a month, two months, three months, eight months, and we lose our sunglasses!”
One thing's clear: no matter how bright the future gets these two will not lose their shades. Or their barn office with its zipline exit. “We're gonna stay in the barn as long as we can, it's hard to get better than this,” said Paloni. “But as Ombraz grows we may have to find a new HQ at some point.”