Sarah Selva is an eye-adorning entrepreneurial #ladyboss. After spending years searching for the perfect pair of spectacles herself, she took to the challenge of designing her own range, and launched SELVA Eyewear in 2018.
The select SELVA Eyewear range includes four optical styles and four sun styles, and each pair is meticulously designed in Melbourne and ethically handcrafted in Japan. Sarah is a full-time glasses-wearer herself too, so she knows just how important the perfect fit and feel are when it comes to popping an extra set of eyes on every day.
Sarah's range is carefully curated and exclusively designed to meet strict Australian optical standards, but the process hasn't been easy...
Where did the name SELVA EYEWEAR come from?
The name originates from my own surname. I’ve always had a bit of a girl-crush on people like Victoria Beckham, and I think that when you name something after yourself, it has a little bit of longevity to it; it’s not just going to be some sort of trend.
Do you have a background in optics?
I’ve been in optics for a really long time, and it started with my mum. In New Zealand, she used to work for an optical practice, so from a young age, I was exposed to glasses and frames and the importance of looking after your eyes. I used to try on glasses for hours and have lots of fun with it. Being able to change up your personality every day with a different pair of glasses is a lot of fun too! When I moved out of home and starting 'adulting', and paying for things myself, I realised how horrendously expensive good glasses can be, especially nice frames, but they shouldn't be. Looking after your eyes should be affordable, and you shouldn't have to compromise on style.
Welcome to adulthood; paying for things yourself! It's a shock. How did you progress from optics to creating your own line of eyewear?
I actually ended up getting a job in optics back home in New Zealand. It’s much more clinical-based over there, but that’s been slowly changing as we've started to get bigger chains coming through. But I totally fell in love with working in optics. I’m fairly short-sighted myself as well, so when I was working in New Zealand, I learnt a great deal about eye health. When my husband and I moved here eight years ago, I jumped into working for a bigger chain group. I didn’t love it as much, but I met amazing people. I kind of lost my passion for optics though, so in 2014 I decided that I needed to shake it up. I needed to do something and find that love again. So we went on our honeymoon to Japan, and I met up with some fantastic manufacturers, and the rest, as they say, is history. My husband is a graphic designer, so we started working on a few ideas. I would sit and draw out things and do a lot of research into face shapes and head shapes and the average sized head, and we'd work together to refine things. We had lots of prototypes and lots of fun. We came up with four different models in four different colours, and they're all available as either sunglasses or optical glasses, and that's SELVA in a nutshell.
Do people want to buy glasses for fashion's sake, rather than actual prescription wear?
Surprisingly we have a lot of people come in and ask for a pair of glasses 'Just for an interview', which is interesting! A lot of people are also ordering their glasses with the blue light blockers on them, just to protect their eyes from the screen, but they don't need persctopion lenses. They see perfectly fine, they just want protection from twelve hours in front of a computer, which can do serious damage if you're doing it every day, five days a week. As soon as some people put blue light glasses on, they're amazed at the difference, and it helps prevent the lethargy that some people experience from a lot of screen-time. Our eyes are exposed to so many things now; think about the last time you were in complete darkness. Even if you've been camping, that's not complete darkness; it's rare that any of us are in complete darkness these days. Even at home, there are street lights outside the windows, or a toilet light on that sends a little light down the hallway. Your eyes are like muscles though. If you’re not contracting those muscles, they don't work the way they should, so they just get super tired and super lazy. We take them for granted, but we've got to look after our eyes and train them too.
What’s the process behind a pair of sustainably designed and ethically handcrafted SELVA glasses?
It’s a long process. I start with hand-drawings and sketches, then my husband Nick will put my ideas into Illustrator. From there, we go through prototyping and finding things like fabrics and the right finishing details. We actually started off with making the range in China, but the quality just wasn’t there; it’s definitely getting there, but it wasn't what I wanted for SELVA. China is amazing in terms of production capabilities and quantities, but for that feeling of something on your face twenty-four hours a day, it just needed to be that little bit nicer and feel that little bit more luxurious, so we switched to Japan.
SELVA specs are quite fine but they feel sturdy at the same time. These feel really beautiful.
They do, and I'm proud of that. I just wanted to create something special, something people would love and keep for a long time. It's the same with clothing; you can easily tell the difference between mass-produced pieces, and slow fashion pieces, and you can feel the quality as soon as you pick something up. Take a fast fashion dress for example. There’ll be that little bit of thread that’s kind of hanging, and you know it’s there because there was about ten thousand of them made and not enough attention to detail, or time to make each dress special. So what I wanted to do with our glasses, and what I couldn’t find out there, was something that wasn’t manufactured in huge numbers. I wanted people to have a pair of my glasses and feel like they could wear them for years. I’m minimalist in my own colour palette too, so I wanted to wear something that would transcend seasons. Unfortunately, it’s not a product that you can melt down again and remake, so in terms of keeping our footprint down for slower fashion, we approach this through our design by creating frames that will last.
Learn more about good eye health and shop the SELVA Eyewear range here, and as always, support your local makers and creators.
The Fashion Advocate x