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“Asian Fit. Won’t Bounce. Ultra Light.”

That’s the promise that Singaporean brand Sunday Shades assures customers. The idea might seem like a no-brainer since sunglasses are such a universal accessory, but it’s actually not as common as you’d think.

The international brands you usually think of like Ray-Ban and Oakley are made in Spain with European features in mind. The few others that do consider our Asian low nose bridges are few and far between.

And Kenneth Tan was getting pretty frustrated at having to fork out so much money for something that was ill-fitting. “I’ve always had problems finding a pair of sunglasses that fit my Asian features and won’t bounce when running.”

Image Credit: Sunday Shades

So together with his brother and athlete wife, Raymond and Dorothy, the three sought to rectify this overlooked problem with a bootstrapped capital of S$5,000.

For the sunny side of life

When Kenneth and Raymond exited the cloud company they started 16 years ago, they were itching for a new venture. The brothers had always been fascinated with starting businesses and often discussed their next adventure.

“Whatever it was, we agreed it wouldn’t be another tech company,” Kenneth joked. “We wanted to be in a business that lets us engage with happy clients.”

The idea for Sunday Shades fell on them during a family vacation when they were bouncing ideas off one another. It was only natural that they’d all come together to start the venture, particularly since the brothers had worked well previously.

Dorothy, the co-founder of Sunday Shades / Image Credit: Sunday Shades

Dorothy, on the other hand, had some creative ideas to spare. Her experience as an indoor volleyball player for the national team and later coach also came in handy (more on that later).

The concept was straightforward enough. All they had to do was create sunglasses that wouldn’t slide off or look ghastly when worn by the average Asian. Singapore being a tropical island meant that they could market it to anyone, because everyone would need a pair.

But that’s where the first trouble lies. “When we launched the site, nobody bought [it]. We learnt that when we try to market to everyone, we market to no one,” Kenneth shared.

The team then re-examined their strategy and opted to focus on a small niche that they could dominate—the athletic crowd. 

Image Credit: Sunday Shades

Every shade has its month

As a way to relaunch the brand, Sunday Shades reached out to athletes, some of whom were Dorothy’s connections. A few pairs were seeded to them in return for honest feedback to improve the sunglasses.

For example, Kenneth told Sports Plus in 2022 that the rubberised coating used on most of its sunglasses came from an ultra-marathoner’s suggestion. 

All the shades are designed in house. The trio are the only full-timers to date, though they’re supported by a group of contractors that help from logistics to marketing.

Image Credit: Sunday Shades

The production of their sunglasses are also outsourced to third-party manufacturers. “These are the very same factories that produce some well-known international brands,” Kenneth disclosed to us. 

In regards to what changes were made to give it the Asian fit, he declined to share much. The only detail was that Sunday Shades raised the nose bridge and made fine adjustments to the frames for a snug fit.

Usually, they’d be on the lookout for eyewear with shapes that flattered most face types. Sketches are made and later shared with the production team to create prototypes. The team would create as many as 10 iterations before they settle on one.

Once satisfied, they’ll go into production with various colours. Some months there might be more but the general target is to release one colourway each month.

Image Credit: Sunday Shades

Working on being a “spectacle-uar” brand

At the moment, Sunday Shades offers five styles of sunglasses: Classic, Surge, Tempo, Cockpit, and Flare. The latter is its bestseller series and has a unique single piece of lens. 

Price-wise, the co-founders opted to keep it within the affordable range of S$49 to S$59.

Customers can opt to purchase them online through the brand’s website. However, if you’re someone who prefers trying them on first, you could head down to Thee Bold Stories or its counter at Central, Clarke Quay.

Image Credit: Sunday Shades

Sunday Shades has expanded its offline business internationally as well. Indonesian consumers can find their shades at WearInAsia and HLSPORT’s retail outlets, and soon Tunjungan Plaza. This appears to be the approach they’re taking to grow and scale up moving forward.

All that said, Kenneth confided that it hasn’t been easy managing the logistics and inventory. Cash flow has to be managed carefully, and as such, not much stock is kept. “In months where demand is higher, we often run out of SKUs to sell.”

“We are now much better at predicting demand, and although still not perfect in managing inventory, we are getting there.”

In terms of conquering the market, there’s still many steps before the team gets there. But seeing as how they’re filling an important market gap, it’s not a question of whether they’ll get there, rather when?

Image Credit: Sunday Shades
  • Learn more about Sunday Shades here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Sunday Shades

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(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)