NEW YORK—Long term societal issues, like those of diversity, equity & inclusion, have been fighting the hard fight for many years. With the escalation of the disruption unleashed by the global pandemic, the brighter spotlight on the topic from media, and a groundswell among individuals and organizations that more vocal and active commitment was needed, DE&I initiatives continue to expand. Voices from within health care, business, family, politics and culture are starting to join with those in structured organizations along with more assertive storytelling from groups victimized or impacted by the lack of inclusion in hiring, in receiving or accessing fair and equitable business or health care services and more.

Individuals, groups and organizations across the optical industry and vision care profession, are stepping up to support these as part of an expanding commitment.

VMAIL will continue to report on these as they are issued. Vision Monday has housed these and more in our Diversity & Inclusion category on (

Efforts this year have widened. Optical companies have issued statements of support for diversity & inclusion and have fostered more internal dialog and new programs. Among these are National Vision, VSP Vision, MyEyeDr., Warby Parker, IDOC, EssilorLuxottica, Safilo, Marcolin, Zyloware, Kering, WestGroupe, ClearVision, CooperVision, Johnson & Johnson, De Rigo and many, many more.

Schools and college of optometry have also amped up their own visibility in this arena throughout the past two years and involved current and prospective students and faculty as well in new discussions.

Recognition of the DE&I challenges span issues among Black, Asian, LatinX, Pacific Islander, and others of color as well as LGBTQ and women, and those with limited economic access to care and services. Communities of those suffering from or living with vision disabilities and blindness are, just this month, joining with other national organizations to recognize and demand representation and access during National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Today, the DE&I issues are being supported by executives and employees, doctors and associates, patients and patient advocates, plus industry organizations and professional societies who are starting to more openly address the issues of racism and institutional prejudice with new programs.

Editor's Note
To learn more about the how dialogue and initiatives surrounding diversity, equity & inclusion are expanding throughout the industry, read our feature article, “Embracing the Differences.” This Cover story appeared in the October edition of Vision Monday, in both the print and digital editions as well as online here.

Black-Owned Eyewear Steps Into the Spotlight

Over the course of the past few years, Black-owned eyewear brands have been growing both in numbers and popularity. Some specialize in designing eyewear to fit people with African heritage, while others focus on cultural designs, but they are all successful in creating on-trend, high quality eyewear that appeals to everyone, across the board. These are just a few of the companies engaging in the eyewear category.

In 1992, Daymond John, Carl Brown, J. Alexander Martin and Keith Perrin founded FUBU (, a clothing and lifestyle brand whose name stands for “For Us, By Us.” Over the past three decades, FUBU has steadily grown into an iconic brand which now includes the FUBU FRAMES Eyewear Collection by Eye Candy Creations USA. The eyewear follows the same philosophy as the larger brand, “Inspired by the lives of everyday people innovating for survival,” and “designed for strong, ambitious, game changers who embrace individual style as a birthright,” the brand says ( Constructed from Mazzucchelli acetates and high-end metals, the frames feature unique constructions and vibrant lenses with anti-reflective coatings.

Peoples from Barbados ( began in 2016 with what was intended to be a simple, one-off capsule collection celebrating the island of Barbados’ 50th independence anniversary. Six years later, optician Alicia Hartman is still heading up the successful brand—with way more than that initial capsule collection under her belt. Peoples From Barbados aims to bring the adventurous, ambitious and daring heritage of the Barbados to the worldwide stage, offering eyewear that is glamorous, bold and full of Bajan Soul.

Twin designers Coco and Breezy ( are well known names within the optical community. From their DJ skills to their visual art, Coco and Breezy are true modern Renaissance women—a reality reflected in their eyewear designs. Corianna and Brianna Dotson founded their eyewear brand in 2009 and rocketed to near-instant success; most famously, they designed the iconic “third-eye” sunglasses worn and loved by Prince. Coco and Breezy have also collaborated with brands like Hershey’s, Ciroc and Teva.

After years working in Chicago as an optician, Jamel Marshall moved to New York and founded Savant & Scholar ( All designs are Marshall’s, inspired by the energy and uniqueness of New York City, and designed to tell a story. Marshall explains on his website (, “Each design different than the other, tells its own story of Art, Culture, & timeless Nostalgia. The eyewear is carefully comprised of custom components, then beautifully handcrafted showcasing its precise attention to detail. Artistry that not only accommodates both Single Vision & Progressive lenses, but empowers through individual expression and creativity.”

Founded by Dionne Ellison, Vuilwear ( is a nature-inspired eyewear brand that mirrors the colors and patterns of insects’ eyes. The sunwear, which features honeycomb patterns on the lenses, “challenges the norm by focusing on the lenses because that’s the first thing you see when wearing them,” Ellison explains ( Vuliwear gives back, too: the brand donates a portion of its proceeds to United to Beat Malaria, a global grassroots campaign of the UN Foundation that provides bed nets and other insect repellent tools to protect families in need from insects carrying malaria.

Friends Tracy Vontélle Green and Nancey Harris founded Vontélle Eyewear ( after they both lost expensive pairs of eyewear and found they couldn’t replace them with the exact designs they were dreaming up. Now, the two focus on creating eyewear designs that feature textiles, patterns and colors from the African diaspora. On their website, Harris and Green write, “Each of our products and accessories are designed to pay homage to our African ancestry with traditional colors and patterns that channel our African, Caribbean, and Latino heritage. Our patterns use many textiles and designs from highly identifiable, recognizable and respected materials like mud cloth and kente cloth. These designs are tailored to empower humanity to see the world through cultural and global lens.”

Jamal Robinson and NFL linebacker Jaylon Smith founded CEV Collection (, an acronym for Smith’s on-field mantra “Clear Eye View.” Together, Smith and Robinson design “culturally inspired eyewear with trendsetting designs,” they explain on their website. “We wanted to create a brand that stood for something. We wanted to design unique and high-quality products at a fair price. We want to build a community that embodies the hope and inspiration of what a Focused Vision can be in someone’s life.”

Nwamaka Ngoddy, OD, founded Anwuli Eyewear ( in 2019, specifically designing for Black and African facial features. The brand was born out of years of work as an optometrist, leading Dr. Ngoddy to notice that many of her patients were having a hard time finding stylish frames that fit their faces. Anwuli means “joy” in Igbo—something Dr. Ngoddy hopes to reflect in the frames she designs.

This small sampling of Black-owned eyewear brands is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. But it reflects just how large, diverse and exciting the Black-owned eyewear business is—and just how much we have to look forward to as these brands and their peers continue to grow and share.

Celebrating Diversity Online

The calendar year is full of days and months dedicated to celebrating diversity & inclusion. There’s Black History Month in February, Women’s History Month in March, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May and both Pride and Juneteenth in June. Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 through October 15, while October is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Native American Heritage Month is celebrated in November, closing out the year.

Of course, diversity & inclusion isn’t limited to certain days or months—it’s something we focus on all year round—but these dedicated holidays provide a great opportunity to spotlight DEI on social media. Throughout the year, ECPs take to their social media accounts to mark these holidays, celebrating the diverse history of the vision community.

Read More About It
For more on how the industry is getting involved with this very important topic, don’t miss “The Vision Council Offers Members Access to Executive Online Education Through Partnership With Cornell University” and “The Vision Council's DE&I Initiatives Broaden, NOA’s Dr. Sherrol Reynolds Discussed Diversity Challenges at Vision Expo West.”