Chic Report

Wildfox’s Wild Vision

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With a dash of bohemian luxury, a sprinkling of witty humor, and a whole lot of feminine charm, Wildfox has become one of the most reliable purveyors of California casual style. And would any SoCal girl be caught dead without a pair of killer shades? Of course not! That’s why Wildfox Sun’s designer, Benjamin Montoya, had the vision to make optics that appeal on a global scale.

When did Wildfox get into the sunglasses game?
Our first collection launched in 2012. I have 20 years of experience in the eyewear industry, including my own collection called Benjamin Eyewear, which is how Jimmy Sommers, the CEO of Wildfox, knew about me. One day he stopped by one of my stores and asked me to create the collection for Wildfox. The rest is history!

What mission were you tasked with when creating this category?
Jimmy is really big on quality, and it’s the bottom line for every product we sell. He was totally behind the idea that if we were to launch a new category, we had to do it the right way. He wanted me to establish a valid category, and not just another licensed sunglass collection. It was also important to create a product that was super fun, but it still had to be something we all respect and love.

What are some signatures of Wildfox shades?
All of our classic frames feature chunky acetate, which people have attributed to our collection. Like our Bel Air frame, a classic, round ’60s acetate frame with a bit of writing on it, which has sold more than we ever thought it would. When we created that design we thought we were being crazy, but at this point, we can’t even remove it from our collection because people love it so much. Another is the Classic Fox, which has this heavy, late ’80s–looking frame. You know how Ray-Ban has the Wayfarer, which has become iconic for the brand? That’s what the Classic Fox is for us.

Who are some celebs that have been spotted in Wildfox shades?
Kendall Jenner, Alessandra Ambrosio, Sean Lennon, Olivia Munn, Beyoncé, and Rihanna.

Is Sean Lennon the only guy to rock Wildfox Sun?
We actually have a lot of guys who wear our frames. We’ve been able to sell the Classic Fox to so many guys, it’s crazy.

How important is fit?
It’s really important. Is the frame resting directly on a person’s cheek? Is the nose area sitting properly? Are the sides long enough to reach over the ears? Is the color right for the customer? A lot of our frames come in eight to 10 color ways because we think it’s important for our customer to explore a palette of our colors.

How closely do you align your collections with the inspiration of the ready-to-wear design team?
I work with [Wildfox co-founder] Kim [Gordon] mostly, because she has a lot of the overall design ideas. There are always a few key pieces I make each season that are directly based on her inspiration, and we work side by side to translate that into the glasses.

Do you wear sunglasses in the office?
Everyone at Wildfox is always trying them on. We often walk around and make sure everyone in the office loves the designs we’re working on. It’s just one way we can get a little sense of what people like and what they don’t.

What’s your take on wearing shades in the winter?
My ultimate mission is to take the seasonality out of sunglasses. If people are wearing sunglasses during the winter in London, then they should be wearing them in New York. People look great wearing sunglasses in the winter.

Do you collect sunnies?
I’ve been collecting them since the ’90s and now there are probably a couple thousand pieces in my collection. I have frames that range from the 1920s to the ’80s, including some of the most iconic frames ever produced. It’s kind of like an archive that I can go back to and actually wear. Plus, looking at the vintage stuff gives me inspiration.

Wow! How do you store them all?
It’s a bit of a problem! I try to organize them, but most of them are in flat files.

What was the first pair of vintage shades you picked up?
They were a pair of vintage Vuarnet sunglasses. I remember I bought them at a Vans Pro Shop, back in the day. They cost like $60, which at the time seemed like so much money to me!

Any iconic shades in your collection?
I have some 1950s horn-rim glasses and 1970s Elvis-style glasses, with the heavy metal frames. My Persols from the ’50s are very Steve McQueen–looking, and I also have plenty of oversize sunglasses from the ’70s.

What’s the one place you think is unacceptable to wear sunglasses?
I think it’s really odd to see someone wearing sunglasses in a restaurant. I just don’t like that!

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