20/20: How did the idea for Vontelle Eyewear come to be?
Tracy Vontelle Green & Nancey Harris: The concept for Vontelle was born out of a need of both of us as founders each losing our expensive eyewear within the same year. We wanted vibrant patterns, better fitting glasses and to purchase from a Black-owned brand. When we didn’t find what we wanted, we created it.
We wanted eyewear that reflected our culture, and we went through extensive lengths (travel, research, interviews, designs by hand, etc.) to find collaborators who understood our vision and mission. We both quit our full-time jobs to bootstrap the company and put 100 percent effort into making this a successful brand as we were giving the same energy to our employers, and we knew we can do it for ourselves. Vontelle is a unique luxury eyewear brand, offering awe-striking, ethnic patterns reflecting the African diaspora (including Caribbean and Latinx cultures.) We launched our website in October 2020, and the designs are inspired by highly identifiable African textile designs (including mud cloth and kente cloth), Ankara prints and newly created trademarked Vontelle textile designs.
What do you hope your eyewear designs bring to consumers?
Joy! We want our consumers to have pure joy! From our research, many cultures have had a hard time finding eyewear that fits. Vontelle understands that eyewear is an essential medical necessity and realizes the importance of quality, thus using the most luxurious materials while creating bold looks for diverse faces. We want our eyewear designs to leave our consumers feeling great—seen and heard. Our spectacular handcrafted designs are new to the eyewear industry and include a wider bridge for the nose, a longer temple for a comfortable fit on your ears and wider lenses to fit over high cheekbones. The goal is to change how you see and be seen.
What does the future have in store for Vontelle Eyewear?
The corporate vision for Vontelle Eyewear is to become the leading African American woman-owned luxury eyewear design company showcasing patterns and textiles. We consider our designs art centerpieces. Most importantly, Vontelle is excited to be the first Black-woman-owned luxury eyewear brand to partner with ViacomCBS Consumer Products for a children’s eyewear line centered around Nickelodeon’s beloved characters. Vontelle will create three to four new unique eyewear frames annually using characters from Nickelodeon shows such as “Baby Shark’s Big Show!,” “PAW Patrol,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Rugrats,” “Teenage Mutant Turtles” and more.
In addition, Vontelle is providing a new solution of better fitting eyewear and working with our community. The National Institute of Health’s National Eye Institute reports that African Americans and Latinx are more likely to have cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy than any other ethnic group. Befittingly, Vontelle Eyewear has partnered with WIN (Women in Need), the largest provider of family shelter and supportive housing in New York City. Vontelle is providing free eyeglasses and eye exams for families experiencing homelessness. Vontelle is collaborating with several organizations and optometrists across the city to provide these services to families in WIN’s 13 shelters. Vontelle enlisted the Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation, which generously provided a grant covering the costs of prescription lenses for WIN families. Our goal is to provide eyewear to homeless shelters nationwide.