By Robert O'Reilly
James Want, co-founder of men's lifestyle blog The Versatile Gent and good mate of M.J. Bale, downloads on his value-first sunglass brand OBLYK and why Italians do it better.
Why did you decide to start OBLYK? What’s the inspiration?
I’ve always had an issue with overpriced products and since I can recall sunglasses have taken the cake in that department. Throughout my teens and early twenties we paid ludicrous amounts for mass-produced, and mass-designed sunglasses, with no justification of price. I wanted to create a quality product that presented excellent value, to put in front of the TVG (The Versatile Gent) audience. My business partner, who I met through TVG, was developing some samples and we decided to take them to market together.
What’s the point of difference between OBLYK and the other sunglass brands out there?
Quality and price. We’re competing against numerous brands in Australia who are priced similarly, yet their products are made in China, using inferior materials. Our sunglasses are produced in a small family owned factory in Italy, made entirely by hand, using traditional methods. Usually, I don’t like to associate the world ‘value’ with a top quality product, but there’s no better term to explain it.
What’s your top tip to picking a pair of sunglasses?
Stop saying, “these don’t suit me.” We grew up wearing sunglasses with square frames and large lens - it’s time to change. Wear them for a week, and you’ll be used to seeing them on your face.
Being an Australian brand, what are the elements of Australian culture and style you draw from?
For our Classic collection, featuring our tortoise and transparent frames, we looked at what Australians were wearing most and what they’d be comfortable in. We wanted to produce sunglasses for everyday wear. For our Horizons collection we drew more inspiration from Australia’s outdoor lifestyle, pairing the acetates with adventurous lens that would showcase our customers' confident and playful nature.
M.J. Bale and OBLYK share some affinities for the countries we produce in and source from – Australia, obviously, and Italy. What do the Italians do that is so special?
There’s a particular charm with the Italians, one that is unrivalled in manufacturing. From cars to clothes, and onto accessories, the Italians create products with soul and passion. When you wear hand made products, you do so with pride, knowing they’ve been created by real craftspeople who’ve been perfecting their skill for centuries.
What’s your top pick out of your current range?
Horizons Matte Lido is my top pick. Unfortunately I don’t have a pair because we’ve almost sold out!
How does OBLYK tie into your work in The Versatile Gent?
I’ve spent three and a half years building a really solid, engaged audience on TVG, and I’d always planned to put products in front of them. OBLYK was the perfect starting point: easy to integrate, accessible to our readers, and of a quality that I could not only be proud of, but was perfectly in line with our TVG brand.
How do you match sunglasses to an outfit?
I probably match my sunglasses to the time of day or occasion, more than to what I’m wearing. In relation to outfit however, I think the question is, how do you want your sunglasses to work with your ensemble? Are they going to be complementary or make a statement? I enjoy wearing the Horizons Mangrove with Navy, and I love wearing the Pineapple with a fresh white shirt.
What does it mean to you to be a good style of man?
Never being the loudest person in the room.
We didn't publish this article because we were paid. We believe in giving other brands credit when it's due and we get our rocks off helping you gents find the best, even if it's from a brand other than ours. You can check out OBLYK and their range here.