It’s not often that you come by a product that has enough “dirt on it “to make you squeal with joy.  On a rainy day in Parkhurst I stumbled into a trendy boutique and gasped at the sight of these good looking wooden sunglasses which go by the name; “Hout Couture.”  I knew they had to be a South African product with such an authentic name, I knew I had to own my own pair and then I knew I had to find out more about the dreamers behind this brand.

 

Here’s the dirt on them…

 

Q:  What is “Hout Couture?”

 

A:  Hout Couture is a Cape Town based brand of wooden-framed sunglasses. Each pair is hand crafted from responsibly forested woods like American Walnut and White Oak and fitted with polarised lenses.  All frames are fitted with spring-loaded hinges for a comfortable fit for all head shapes and sizes. Although surprisingly light to wear on your face, the technology that goes into the manufacture of our sunglasses ensures that they're just as durable as any plastic equivalent.

Q:  Hout Couture in my opinion is one of the most innovative and trendy products I’ve seen in a long time and it’s proudly South African.  Tell us about the inception of your product/brand?

 

A:  Thank you for the compliment, we’re very proud to see how well the product has done.

Hout Couture was started as a practical project in an entrepreneurship course at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and has since grown into a sustainable business. The brief given to our project group was to design, manufacture and sell an eco-friendly fashion accessory. Sunglasses seemed like a great option since they’re unisex, one-size-fits-all and trendy and in sunny South Africa, quite essential. Making them out of wood not only ensured that they would be eco-friendly, but they also gave our product an unusual and innovative edge.

Since then, Chris Elliot and Craig Cameron-Mackintosh, the remaining members of the group who now run Hout Couture, have spent the last year perfecting the product and getting the brand’s name known.

 

Q:  How do you remain authentic to your brand and to South Africa, your birthright and the country you live in?

 

A:  All Hout Couture wooden sunglasses are hand crafted in South Africa, this will not change, despite the temptation to have them cheaply produced in China like other brands do. We are proud to show off the fact that our sunglasses are made in Cape Town. With so many wooden sunglass brands popping up around the world in the last two years, we felt it was even more of a reason to root our brand to our home country and to set ourselves apart. We’d like to give the world a glimpse of our sunny, laid back and effortlessly stylish city and brand.

 

Q:  You currently offer four timeless shapes in six different wood varieties.  Tell us more about the styles on offer.

 

A:  The classic Wayfarer shape is the most popular choice for both men and women. The Amelia is a quirky round-lens frame which appeals to our more fashionable customers. The Ramsey is Hout Couture's take on the famous Aviator frame with big bold lenses and strong lines. Finally, the Cat-Eye is our classic feminine offering with over-sized, elegant lines.

Q:  Tell us about your “Plant a Seed” initiative?  Why was it important to your company to get involved in a community project?

 

A:  Our ‘Plant a Seed’ initiative aims to encourage biodiversity in South Africa, and to teach school children the importance of ‘living lightly on our planet’. For every pair of Hout Couture sunglasses sold, a portion of the sales is given to Eco-Schools, which then supports rural township schools by planting indigenous, water-wise or fruit trees in the school grounds. The pupils not only learn from this experience, they also benefit from the trees that grow in their schools – creating shade, fruit to eat or simply beautifying the grounds.

 

Promoting biodiversity and planting trees is our way of giving back what we take and adding to the sustainability of our sunglasses. It’s important for us to maintain this balance.

 

Q:  I see on your website that you send your product all over the world.  Which country is your biggest supporter?

 

A:  South Africa has really embraced our product well and so has The Netherlands. The Dutch not only appreciate and understand the meaning behind the name Hout Couture, but we’ve also discovered that they’re a very fashionable and trendy nation.

 

Q:  What were the obstacles you had to face to get this brand off (or out) the ground?

 

A:  Our biggest obstacle was perfecting our product – something we still work on each day. It was a huge challenge turning an idea into a physical product, especially since wooden sunglasses are not items that are readily produced around the world, especially not in South Africa. We had to create and perfect the processes from scratch as we went along.

 

 

Q:  What three pieces of advice would you give to someone wanting to become an entrepreneur?

 

A:  1. Find the right people to work with.

2. Spot a gap in the market and come up with an innovative product or service  to fulfill that gap.

3. Retain as much control of your business as possible.

 

Q:  What does the future hold for Hout Couture?

 

A:  We will continue to improve our product so that the choice of wooden sunglasses over plastic ones goes beyond the trend and is made simply because we are offering a beautiful, well-made product. We would also love to expand our market into more countries around the world.

 

Enough said.  I love Hout Couture’s take on going green and love even more that they look so good on, are feather-lite, thus not leaving any ugly cavities on the bridge of my nose after wearing and that they are proudly South African.  My favourite style (and the pair I own) is the Wayfarer Ebony Macassar sunnies but there are many more options to choose from.  They’re undoubtedly on trend and on par with all the other international branded sunglass manufacturers, in my opinion.

 

Go to www.houtcouture.com to buy your own pair online or view their list of shops where their products are sold across the country.

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