As Anthony Codispoti sat poolside one summer afternoon, he lamented the absence of comfortable yet stylish sunglasses in the marketplace. He didn’t really have a concept of what those sunglasses would look like, but in 2008 a mutual friend introduced him to a man who did.
Mark Craig had been designing eyewear for several American fashion and sports brands over the previous 10 years. When Codispoti told him about his half-baked idea, he lit up because he understood the significance of the problem.
“My idea became our idea and quickly evolved to focus on finding a way to effectively meld together style and performance,” said Codispoti.
Nearly two years later, the duo launched Activist Eyewear.
“We wanted to do things that had never been done before, so it took a lot of research and development to get it right,” he said.
One of Activist Eyewear’s distributors tells his customers that it’s the first high-end sport brand. Codispoti said he prefers to think it’s the first brand to bridge the otherwise disparate worlds of style and performance.
“When you look at our collection, you’ll see a lot of classical style references, especially in terms of the eye shapes,” he continued. “But our most distinctive design element is actually a big part of our performance story: the Split-Fit temple.”
Most eyeglasses and sunglasses have a single stem that goes behind the wearer’s ear. However, the stems on Activist Eyewear’s frames split about halfway back.
“This effectively doubles the surface area that is contacting the side of the head, resulting in improved grip and unparalleled comfort for all your daily activities,” he said. “It’s also a cool-looking silhouette against the side of your head.”
Prices for the brand’s eyeglasses and sunglasses −crafted in small, family-owned factories in Japan− range from $325 to $495.
“We could have made it cheaper if we went to China,” he said. “But that would’ve meant compromising on quality, consistency, engineering, and materials. China is a great option for a lot of products, and I don’t stand on an anti-China soapbox by any means. But it just wasn’t the right move for us.”
Activist Eyewear is designed in Brooklyn. Craig lives there, and it’s where he received his industrial design training and honed his skills.
“Mark really thrives on the energy of the streets, communities, and local way of life,” Codispoti said.
Meanwhile, Codispoti resides in the Short North, where Activist Eyewear has a warehouse that receives and distributes all the company’s product.
“The creative energy [in Brooklyn] is awesome, and you are literally a subway ride away from some of the coolest stuff happening anywhere in the world,” he said. “But Columbus has been my home since I moved here 20 years ago for college. I’ve made a lot of really great friends here, and those bonds can’t be easily replaced. Plus, I’m a big fan of the creative and entrepreneurial vibe that exists in Columbus.”
Each colorway of each Activist Eyewear design is made in runs of 718 or 347 in honor of Brooklyn’s area codes. The unique serial numbers are laser-etched onto the frames.
Additionally, when a colorway sells out for a particular frame, it won’t be offered again.
The company prioritizes quality over quantity and lives that ideal by crafting frames in limited editions, Codispoti said.
In addition to eyeglasses and sunglasses, Activist Eyewear offers microfiber cloths designed to look like a fine handkerchief or pocket square.
“It’s great for cleaning your lenses and as a fashion accessory, too,” he said. “The same sort of thinking went into our waxed canvas carrying case, the lanyards, and the outer packaging. We obsess over the tiniest details because we believe they matter.”
In Central Ohio, Activist Eyewear frames are available exclusively at Eye Designs Grandview, at 1421 Grandview Ave., and Eye Designs New Albany, at 220 C Market St.
To learn more about Activist Eyewear, visit ActivistEyewear.com.