When we talk about artists, what we’re really talking about is their vision and how they see the world. For Johnny Fly, the Charlotte-based lifestyle brand, reliable eyewear is the key to unlocking sights unseen, second only to a deep-rooted desire for adventure. The company deals in practicality with elevated luxe, supplying a suite of sunglasses, prescription lens, and multifaceted leather goods that hold court in artistic utility. The optic-weavers behind Johnny Fly excel in classically creative designs, and with new collections routinely presented like an exposition, the difference remains in their panache for subtle bouts of self-expression.
When Johnny Fly took to the sky in 2012, it entered the notorious backdrop of Charlotte’s business-forward markets which, to some, may seem cold and transactional, but was an ideal match for the brand’s sharp and refined approach to eyewear. The reality is that Charlotte is so much more than a hotbed for financial mobility, and Johnny Fly found a home in the city’s supportive makers communities. John Freeman, founder of Johnny Fly, sought a renaissance in ocular design that could unite functionality and fashion to make something truly dynamic by nature. Comparatively, many eyewear markets offer one or the other; loud creativity or hollowed out professionalism. Finding the right pair of frames that reflect your inner light without going out of style can be a stretch, which is why Freeman turned his attention to tech-driven lenses that last a lifetime.
“Classic has always been my thing,” said Freeman. “We don’t ever chase fast fashion, because we want to create classic shapes that you can wear ten years down the road and beyond.”
Many of Johnny Fly’s silhouettes are instantly recognizable, from their LaForge Aviators to the striking Riker wireframes. These are shapes we’ve come to know through the years as statement pieces, popularized by the likes of Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” and other familiar faces. With Johnny Fly, those classic forms go a step further in the name of quality and durability, built with layered wood materials that are as unique as the person wearing them. At its core, Johnny Fly represents a lifestyle and delivers a product that’s built to last, starting with choice materials and innovative takes on classic shapes.
“By nature we’re very technology driven,” said Freeman. “We conduct a lot of research on what others are experimenting with in places like Europe or Japan and put our spin on it.”
The Johnny Fly treatment includes a double dose of durability, flexibility, and the latest and greatest in optical anatomy. Currently, that means nylon for lensing. The brand’s most recent collection of 2022, named the “Cosmic Collection”, incorporates nylon into the design of four celestial frames that carry a strong gravitational pull. Polarized nylon is a unique material when applied to sunglasses, as nylon is a lighter alternative to conventional models. Because of this, nylon is more sustainable and reduces a carbon footprint, sewing clean design into its existing flexible, BPA-free make up. The “Cosmic Collection” also demonstrates the brand’s use of Italian acetate, which is a strong material for framing.
Part of the appeal of a Johnny Fly piece is that it works well for any setting. Charlotte’s professional circuits are an obvious pairing, but the city’s thriving artisanal networks are also deserving of such craftsmanship. In 2017, Johnny Fly opened its flagship store, located in the chic NoDa enclave of downtown Charlotte. The breakout into retail was met with explosive enthusiasm and support from local makers and artists, each of them supplying a unique perspective with which to grow and learn from.
“That was a major turning point for the brand,” said Freeman. “I thought it was going to be a humble place people would swing by, but it quickly evolved into a full retail platform.”
Freeman wasn’t expecting so much hype in opening a gallery of sorts, where consumers could interact with the frames themselves, smell the leather, and see what Johnny Fly is all about. The flagship store became the beating heart of the brand and provided a space where Freeman could listen to what consumers wanted and learn from other areas of expertise. It turns out, Charlotte is hungry for functional fashion that allows its communities to work hard, play harder, and look good while doing it.
“[Charlotte] It’s a good melting pot of people from everywhere,” said Freeman. “In growing a brand, it gives you a taste of everyone’s wants and needs, so artistically speaking we have a very progressive community with different perspectives.”
Johnny Fly also maintains a second retail outpost in Cornelius, just a couple hundred feet away from the banks of Lake Norman. Their retail expansion has proven successful on both accounts, and Freeman has stated that the brand’s next chapter will focus primarily on further expanding their retail might.
“We got here at the right time, and it’s incredibly supportive in the small business sector,” he said.
The frames of Johnny Fly retain a subtle elegance that needs no introduction. Their approach to optical fashion and function oversteps traditional thresholds and positions the brand as a lifestyle that makes time for fuller experiences. In Charlotte, Johnny Fly is undoubtedly a big fish in a small pond, but nationwide their distinct style takes the gold for longevity in much larger bodies of water. Whether we are sporting a new frame for ocular clarity or added finesse, the quality of Johnny Fly is unrivaled in style and shapely chic. You just have to see the difference for yourself.
Presented by: Ascend Agency