Setting out to ‘inspire others through a unique approach to a very common product,’ Shwood founders Eric Singer, Taylor Murray, and Dan Genco have created a business around their unique wooden framed sunglasses. Pulling inspiration from past icons like Johnny Cash and James Dean, Shwood brings a touch of nostalgia to the realm of eyewear. The brand is making their mark on the world, one hand-crafted frame at a time.
When was the brand born?
August 2009 was our initial launch.
Tell us about the idea for the brand and how you got things going.
In the summer of 2005 I was fresh out of highschool, with no particular direction besides following the dream of snowboarding as much as possible and pushing myself to stay creative. The gift of making things is something I suppose I was born with; it is just what I’ve always done. It came with a curse though, one that caused me to lose interest quickly in whatever I set out to make. Once I figured out how to do or make something, I would feel the need to move on to something entirely different. This obviously is a problem to anyone setting out to try and build anything with lasting value, such as a business. I vividly remember the sunny day back in ’05 when I had reached a point in my life where I thought I had finally tapped out my creativity. I was sitting under a large pine tree in my front yard, looking at my neighbor's tree thinking how much cooler that tree was than mine. I hopped the fence, climbed the cool tree and chopped off a limb with a hand saw. I looked at it for a while not sure what to do with it. That is when it hit me, “Why not try and make a pair of sunglasses?” I had a huge collection of vintage frames I had been collecting for years, but never had thought to try and build my own. There was something about the shiny orange bark on this branch reminded me of my plastic frames, and wood just seemed like the best material to use on this new venture. The first try was somewhat of a success in terms of friends reactions when they saw them. This fueled the fire for me, and it was on. The next 2 years was a road of trial and error, spending what money I had on nicer wood and better tools. I never gave up on the pursuit for snow, which led both the sunglasses and myself to tour part of the country snowboarding. This is where I met the partners I now have, and who helped me create this into the brand it is today.
The Shwood brand is based around our tagline, “Experiment with Nature.” We embody this mantra in everything we do, from product design to marketing. Our goal is to inspire others through our unique approach to a very common product. Shwood is a whole lot more than wooden sunglasses, and by engaging our customers through inspiring projects, art, and music, we’ve been able to build the brand into something that people can really interact with, and not just wear on their face.
How would you describe your product and its design aesthetic?
Shwood is continuously pushing what we know as a collective group of creative types. This is apparent within our designs, which are inspired by a style from a distant past. Wood in general brings a nostalgic feel to almost anything, inspired by the era of the likes of James Dean and Johnny Cash. Our product truly is unique, a piece of art hand crafted through several dozen steps in our Portland woodshop to ensure quality.
How about your target customer?
A fashion forward individual with a true appreciation for art.
What makes your gear different from everything else out there?
The biggest contrast besides the obvious (wood vs. plastic) most people notice is the weight of our sunglasses. They are dramatically lighter than the typical expectation, and the average acetate frame.
There is also more of a natural feel you notice when you put on a pair of our frames which is more comfortable to the skin.
What makes your retail strategy stand out for shops?
We pursue boutiques that embody the Shwood philosophy and do our best to support through pushing customers to their door. Merchandising through natural unique pieces that add to the feel in their store.
How many people are on your squad?
We currently have 40 craftspeople at Shwood, building and designing everything that we put our name on. With the rapid growth we are constantly looking to bring on more skilled individuals.
How many shops are you in?
120 select boutiques within the U.S. and 225 worldwide.
What's been the most fun or interesting part of launching this company?
Watching it grow from a funny idea into something people actually take seriously. It is a great feeling. I wear what I want into work now. No more stupid uniforms and funny hats. (haha)
Nothing has ever been more challenging, which in turn makes it insanely interesting. Because we make everything ourselves, we have to jump hurtles and put out the fires of operating our own business and production facility. It is amazing to see that we have accomplished what we have to this day, and that is never ending as far as I can see. There are new things every day. It is a great medicine for my curse.
What are you most proud of to date?
The 40 other people backing this thing, for sure. The fact that they all are willing to help build this brand is nothing short of amazing to me, and some of them have been with us since the beginning, which really shows a commitment that blows my mind. They are all here because they want to be. I'm proud to be a part of that.
In a perfect world, where will you be in three years as a brand, and what will your line include?
In a perfect world.. that is a dangerous question. Haha I’ll say we will be in a bigger facility, making many more sunglasses out of more and more natural materials, and every one of our employees will continue to have giant smiles on their faces. Possibly even our own taco cart out back for lunch every day? I can't see it being any better than that right now. We all love tacos.