I’ve been wearing glasses, frames, specs, eyewear since age 13. I remember how upset I was to have to wear them, but then Sally Jessy Raphael had a hot talk show and wore red frames, and I said okay if I’ve got to wear them, I want them to make a statement. I begged my mom to buy me a pair. So started my journey of wearing glasses, not only to see the chalkboard but to be fashionable. Over the decades and many styles, the cost of eyewear has significantly increased with designer brands, and I continued to purchase and began to add multiple pairs to my collection to match my clothes, mood and occasions. With multiple colors, different sizes, and sunglasses with my prescription included in the lenses—oh, and I can’t forget different lens colors—I was Jiggy Wit It as Will Smith would say.
The issue with glasses is they are not attached to you. You sit on them, you forget them in class or at a restaurant, your child breaks them, you fall asleep with them on and the arm breaks, you lose them at a party—blame it on the alcohol. When I lost my last pair of glasses, after I recalled my steps (over and over because I just loved that pair), I realized they must have fallen out of my bag when I was digging in my pocketbook and I didn’t hear them fall in the street. I was very disappointed. I started to search for a new pair and realized all my glasses looked the same—nothing with zing, pizazz or ethnic designs. I had evolved and was looking for more.
Soon after, I had one of those complain about everything but I’m still grateful for my blessings calls with my best friend Nancey, and she too had just lost a pair of designer glasses. We bemoaned together, and I gave my assessment of what was missing in eyewear. There was a lack of African-American and female representation, as well as ethnic flair. The entrepreneur that Nancey is jumped on my idea and said, “We can do this,” and Vontélle was born. My middle name is Vontélle, and I have always loved fashion. So much of who we are starts with self-expression. Most importantly, I wanted to offer a diverse brand of eyewear and accessories for everyone to enjoy and look beautiful in at the same time. I’m in love with all the eyewear Vontélle is offering—a new brand of eyewear—as the first African American–owned and –operated eyewear company to offer ethnic and cultural patterns, I want to give you confidence and swag and proudly represent our culture in a new way.
After graduating from college, I began working for an optometrist as a public relations coordinator. A few months in, I mentioned to the doctor that the glare from the car headlights bothered me, and it was difficult to see at night. I had an eye exam, discovered I was nearsighted and was prescribed my first pair of glasses. Since I worked for an optometrist, I was able to select any pair of designer frames with a nice discount. Now, I was rocking my Malcolm X–styled frames and felt like I could change the world with my new glasses and recently acquired education from a historically black college and university under my belt.
I started buying glasses to match my outfits and hairstyles. I searched high and low for different styles, shapes, and colors so much so that I had a collection that didn’t even have prescriptions. If I saw a pair of glasses that tickled my fancy, I had to buy them. Then I’d wait for my insurance plan to kick in at my job and my husband’s job so I could fill two prescriptions annually. Still, my assortment was growing faster than I could fill the prescriptions. Glasses were sitting on my shelf, waiting to be worn in the hopeful future.
Even after having high-paying jobs, the plight of purchasing glasses to match my outfits was daunting. I found myself paying over $600 for frames that didn’t include my prescription. One day while shopping in Park Slope, Brooklyn, I came across this trendy eyeglass shop. The glasses I liked were a pretty penny. I really liked these classy-looking glasses, but was hesitant due to the lofty price. Just as I was about to walk out, the shop owner suggested layaway. Immediately, I was like, “Bet!” I felt better paying a little at a time. Three months later, after making monthly installments, I went to go pick up my new glasses without the prescription.
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit—I don’t wait on opportunities—so when Tracy said, “I have a great idea,” my big eyes lit up. Her timing was perfect, and I agreed there was a cultural void in the eyewear industry. Upon agreeing to start our eyewear business, I suggested we do things a little differently. Since we’ve both experienced the heartbreak of losing and breaking our favorite glasses, I thought it would be great if we included an insurance replacement policy if your Vontélles are lost, stolen, broken or damaged.
We are absolutely in love with all the eyewear Vontélle has to offer, and we’ve only just begun! Vontélle will surely make you feel bold, brave and beautiful and give you the wow effect all day as you rock these stylish optics.