Carla Robertson, who is near-sighted, has always struggled to find glasses, dreaming of someday designing her own. When she became pregnant with twins, she realized it was now or never. “I harnessed my second trimester hormones and made it happen!” she says. Her twins are now two years old, and her quirky-cool sunglass line has become something of a cult favorite. Here, she talks to FAUBOURG about slow fashion, color hunting, and finding inspiration in faded socks.
What adjectives would you use to describe your line?
I’m a brand that inspires Quiet Confidence.
Do you consider yourself equal parts designer and businesswoman, or does one side dominate?
Running this business, I’ve found myself in the balancing act between art and commerce. But within this tension lies a very exciting challenge. Not only do you design something beautiful, but you have to get it made, on budget, on schedule, get into the wearers hands and on their face. Not just creating an art piece, but a functioning wearable object that hopefully will make them feel great! All parts of this challenge involve creativity and drive.
Courtesy Carla Colour
What does it mean to you when you say Carla Colour is an ethical or socially responsible company?
All of the factories I work with operate under my code of conduct, promising ethical and responsible production methods. I try to embrace the slow-fashion movement in everything I do. We produce limited-edition runs of product, so we avoid waste. I have only one main collection per year for summer and a small capsule collection for Fall. It’s important to me that the Carla Colour brand represents real people. I always street cast for my campaign shoots. My last campaign I found the girl at restaurant Egg in Williamsburg—she was taking my breakfast order and I asked her to try on my glasses. I’m also proud to be a unisex brand. I design shapes and color palettes that work for everyone!
What is it about a pair of sunglasses that can change the tone of an entire outfit?
It’s on your face! It’s a very intimate accessory… closest to how you view the world and how the world views you. An interesting accessory can elevate any outfit. I think generally people dress quite conservatively but do take risks with accessories. My glasses aim to lift that t-shirt-and-jean look to a whole other planet. On the other hand, if you are wearing something wild, my glasses will fit right in and enhance that adventurous look. Classical minimal shapes in interesting colors work every time!
You are a vintage glasses lover. What are some of your favorite shapes?
I love classic shapes with personality. I am very fond of smaller frames, particularly round shapes. I also love the wild asymmetrical designs of the early ‘80s.
Color is such an important part of your story. Where do you look for inspiration?
Everywhere. New York bridges. My kids’ meals. Vintage clothing. Art books. Fruit and vegetables. Faded socks. The list goes on!
Is there a specific artist or artistic movement that has influenced your concept of color and design?
A friend recently gave us a piece of art which continues to excite the color area of my brain. The piece is by Benjamin Langford [http://benjaminrlangford.com/] and it is a HUGE canvas with a macro shot of a poppy and it hangs on the wall like a real flower. Petals draping, creating shadows, and organic shapes. The colors are intense orange, red and yellow. Nature is amazing.
How do you identify the specific shades and tones you end up producing? For example, how do you zero in on that perfect dusty rose as opposed to another shade of pink?
I like colors that have life in them. Complex, rich, mysterious colors. How does a color make me feel? Flat or inspired? Will it be a good partner to denim, or white and black clothing? How does it look on different skin tones? All these questions come up when I’m selecting colors. The type of acetate also plays a role in how the color lives in my designs. I love semi-transparent, milky, acetate treatments. I’m also loving light pearlescent effects at the moment. So really my relationship with color is both visceral and practical. Some colors just look and feel amazing.
Courtesy Carla Colour
Are there any colors are you especially loving right now?
I’m in the middle of a color love triangle right now: deep lilac, cardinal red, and lime green. Can’t get enough of this threesome.
You point out Australian celestial folk band The Dirty Three as one of the influences for your fall collection. How does this music translate visually in your design aesthetic?
The Dirty Three is one of my favorite bands. Their sound is so incredibly intense and powerful, yet delicate and calm at the same time. Uplifting with tension and control. Like in all incredible art forms, there is a level of restraint in their music that I find so inspiring. I relate this to my design aesthetic. I love the calm control of minimalist classical shapes, but the power of statement hues.
Does your Aussie background influence your design aesthetic?
I think there is a certain relaxed attitude to style in Australia. And by that I mean that people are casual about taking fashion risks. It’s not a big deal, just fun.
Can you name a few of your favorite glasses-wearing fashion icons?
1950s Peggy Guggenheim; 1970s Gloria Steinem; 1980s Australian fashion designer Jenny Kee.
The epitome of luxury is:
The epitome of style is:
Sunglasses should make you feel:
Interview by Kerry Folan. Kerry is a writer and editor with a special interest in sustainable fashion. Her work has been published in the Washington Post, Racked.com, and Glamour.com, among other media.