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‘Why are there no glasses designed for Black people?’

London sisters fight racism by creating glasses for Black features

After realising they’d never had a pair of glasses that fit them properly, Clare and Christina Kimeze created their own eyewear brand especially for Black facial features

Sitting on her sofa watching TV series Westworld , West Londoner Clare Kimeze suddenly noticed how well a pair of glasses fit the face of African-American actor Jeffrey Wright.

In that moment, she began questioning everything she’d ever known about eyewear.

She spoke to her sister Christina, who lives in East London, and began to reflect on all the ill-fitting pairs of glasses they’d owned – ones that slip down their nose, sit awkwardly on the bridge or push up against their cheeks when they smile – and realised something wasn’t right.

“Most eyewear is made for Caucasian facial features or people in East Asia with a low and very narrow bridge,” Clare said.

“The industry has not made anything for people with Black facial features – people with a wider bridge or a very flat bridge.”

The two sisters decided to do something about this injustice for Black glasses-wearers, and three years later their eyewear company, Kimeze, was born.

‘Most of what offered on the high street is designed to a Caucasian facial average, and generally that’s not a good fit for a lot of people [in the Black community]’

To rub salt to the wound, Clare said that they soon realised that in the eyewear industry “everyone knew about it, and just accepted that that’s the way it was”.

She added: “We went to speak to people in the industry, to opticians, we went to trade shows, spoke to lots of manufacturers, and we discovered that it was acknowledged within the industry that people with a lower, wider bridge, Black people, Brown people, are not catered for well.”

She added: “And we were pretty shocked by that, so we started to do something about it ourselves.”

Christina continued: “Some well-known companies within the optical space have started to offer wider bridge fits, but we found that a lot of them are a very crude scale-up of the frame, everything is to a much bigger frame, and that just doesn’t work for a lot of people.”

Clare explained that if you have a lower, wider nose bridge you need the acetate nose pads to be in a different position, and have a different angle and depth.

She said: “Because we’ve modelled our glasses on a range of different nose types, we specifically designed each style so that it fits a lower, wider bridge better.

“What other eyewear manufacturers are doing wrong is that they’re not being thoughtful about this particular consumer need – it’s analogous to companies that didn’t produce tights in shades other than pink, or clothing companies that only make for a narrow range of body shapes.”

The discrimination in glasses manufacture is more subtle than it might be in skin-tone products like tights, plasters or makeup, Clare and Christina explained, but it isn’t any less damaging.

They also noticed that when high street optical brands advertise their glasses with Black models, the glasses clearly don’t fit their facial features correctly.

“The crazy thing is, if you look closely at the fit on a lot of those models, it’s absolutely terrible,” Clare said.

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