DUBAI — A favorite among Hollywood’s A-List, with a fan base including Angelina Jolie, Amber Valletta, Charlize Theron and Penélope Cruz, Sama Eyewear stands out for its subtlety — there are no logos anywhere to be found.
The company is the brainchild of California-based eyewear designer Sheila Vance, who created the brand in 1997. Vance said luxury consumers were “tired of wearing logo products. They don’t want to be a billboard of advertisements anymore. Individuality is so important to them. They want to be different and want something that is designed and manufactured in best quality.”
The designer brought her understated style to Saudi Arabia, opening her first luxury optical boutique in the country at Harvey Nichols in Riyadh this week. “Middle Eastern people are very connected to the world of fashion. A few years ago, I realized the consumer needs had changed here, but you couldn’t find companies that are not using logos.”
Vance launched stores in Dubai inside Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdale’s in 2015. The brand is distributed in more than 50 countries, but she said having her own retail outlets allows her to display the full range of Sama’s collections. The styles span from fashion frames starting at $350 to eveningwear sunglasses, which have gold plating, platinum and jewel elements. Some can go for up to $200,000 depending on the level of adornment.
The heart of the business is in prescription sunglasses. Vance said Sama is an optically driven company. She spent 31 years designing and manufacturing eyewear, introducing unique materials like titanium to the market.
“I wear optical glasses myself, and I always believed it must become an accessory of fashion, not just medical,” said Vance. “It is the most important accessory. Adjust eyewear and see how you can look more beautiful, give more definition to your face, even correct flaws.”
Training and educating people on the benefits of wearing eyewear is very important to Vance. She believes firmly that using the right materials for glasses is better for the eyes. “If your glasses are not accurately manufactured and engineered, your lens is going to move in the frame, which damages your vision.”
Sama frames use pure titanium, Japanese acetate and nickel-free plating. In order to maintain quality, each piece is assembled and finished by hand in Japan.
Vance has fashion sunglasses in her stores in the region, but she said they are waiting to clear licensing in order to do prescriptive glasses. In the meantime, opening as a concession inside department stores is a great format for growth. “We can offer our own level of service, but we get the benefits of the department store, like payments and the marketing and footfall. It’s like being in a bigger family. The clients they bring in are so established.”
The stores are generally 800 square feet.
Next in the pipeline for Sama Eyewear is a second boutique in Los Angeles opening in July, an upcoming store in the Hudson Yards project in New York and The Galleria Mall in Abu Dhabi.