Instagram has made it almost impossible to scroll through a fashion-focused feed without coming across one of Australian designer Poppy Lissiman’s sunglasses or bags. Particularly her iconic Le Skinny style, which, as the name implies, is a super skinny retro cat-eye shape that comes in a range of colors—as well as black. Bella Hadid has been spotted in multiple iterations of them. Caroline Vreeland, Emily Ratajkowski, Sita Abellan and Nicola Peltz are just a few others who have sported the chic sunnies, too.
Lissiman’s approach to design can be characterized as quirky and somewhat inspired by pop art. Take, for example, her Crystal Beth sunglasses, a “squoval” (which is what the designer calls the combination of square and oval) style that is offered in a rainbow of lucite hues and are lined with round crystals. Her website shows models wearing the sunglasses, their faces covered in perfectly arranged sequins; other images show her models picking roses, or standing in a desert-like environment. It’s all slightly whimsical and equal parts pop art, surrealism and modern day glamour.
Her bags, which she started designing around the same time as she did sunglasses—four years ago—are also Instagram gold. Daisy printed shoulder bags are embellished with the word “POWER,” while others resembling takeout food bags or Bodega shopping bags are printed with the iconic “Thank you” phrase, one of which Eva Chen recently Instagrammed. But more than that, Lissiman’s affordable prices appeal to both the masses and the cool kids of Instagram. A classic pair of Le Skinny sunglasses goes for less than $100, which is a lot less than most designer frames out there.
Here, we chat with the up-and-coming designer, who shares more about her celeb clientele and her pop culture influences.
Your Le Skinny sunglasses are having a major cultural moment. When did they first launch, and what inspired the silhouette?
We first launched the Le Skinny sunglasses in May 2017 and they have been selling amazingly pretty much since day one. We launched with black, mandarin, lilac and strawberry and in the next two weeks, we will be releasing three new colors we did specifically for the runway show of Namilia earlier this year at NYFW. Early next year we will also be releasing a limited edition Le Skinny luxe, with crystals.
It feels like a lot of designers are doing this skinny sunglasses silhouette now, but yours is still a standout and feels like the most original and contemporary version. Why do you think there’s an obsession with this silhouette right now?
I feel like we jumped on this trend at just the right time, but I also feel like I could see it coming, in a way. The silhouette of sunglasses have been gradually changing and they were definitely getting smaller and more angular, so this was just my interpretation of that.
In terms of the obsession with the shape, I often think about how much we live in an Instagram world, where how something looks in a selfie can alter people’s choices to purchase. When it comes to sunglasses, I think customers are making much more bold purchases than they would of before.
A lot of your sunnies have a retro feel. Is there a particular decade you look to for inspiration?
I inherited a lot of sunglasses from the ’80s from my mum, who used to have a shop back then (which I still wear to this day). So for a long time, I think ‘80s shapes influenced my designs. Having said that, I enjoy looking at all the sunglasses over the decades and taking elements from different eras, the ’90s and early 2000s have been a massive inspiration for the collection I’m working on now.
Also, Elton John is a huge style icon to me when it comes to eyewear; there’s a new crystal encrusted pair in my upcoming collection named after him.
Are there any other iconic sunglasses moments that you’re inspired by?
Oh gosh, that’s hard…I love movies so the first two that come to mind would be Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with those yellow aviators and Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface, when she steps out in that impossibly chic and timeless all white outfit with a gorgeous pair of brown gradient cat eye sunglasses.
Who are you designing for?
A lot of the time, myself, with pieces I would want or am craving but can’t seem to find anywhere. I had a bit of wakeup call to that concept a while ago when a friend of mine came over and tried on a sunglasses sample that I had lying around for a few months. The frames didn’t suit me at all, so I was hesitant to put the style into production. They looked incredible on my friend and from then on, I started being far more considerate of the different face shapes. Currently, I’m working on some new designs that have adjustable nose pads so they can be comfortable for both eastern and western noses too.
How has Instagram played a role in your business and does it equal instant sales?
Instagram has definitely been a huge part of the business’ growth and reach to a global audience. Since we don’t wholesale, we rely on Instagram not just for marketing but for developing that direct relationship with our customer. And yes, it absolutely does equal instant sales! Eva Chen from Instagram posted a photo of one of our bags and we immediately saw a huge spike in sales in that style.
Is it important for you to keep your sunglasses at a reasonable price point?
Definitely. Most sunglasses cost the same amount to make but the markups brands put on them are insane. We take a lot of pride in the quality of the sunglasses we make, but they’re also very trend driven pieces; I’m one of those people that will change my sunglasses every day, if not more than once. I like the idea of having a collection of sunglasses to suit every mood and outfit. It’s really important to me to have my designs be accessible to everyone.
Are bags an important part of your business compared to sunglasses?
Bags and smaller non-leather accessories are still really important to us. I have been making sunglasses for almost as long as I have been making bags—about 4 years—but the success of the sunglasses has only recently surpassed the bags. The clutches still do really well for us.
I actually can’t imagine not designing eyewear. I’ve been working as a designer for almost 10 years now. I first started my label as a womenswear brand in 2008, but sunglasses feel so natural to me and like my calling.