When you first glance at Ombraz Sunglasses, a light bulb immediately fires on. Everything just quickly makes so much sense—armless sunglasses, how did it take this long? Not to mention, beyond the absolute cool factor and ease of functionality, these sunnies are pretty much unbreakable, making any other pair you have owned feel like Mr. Glass. Founded in 2017, the company has been several years and prototypes to deliver today’s scratch-proof, polarized adventure-ready pairs. Naturally, we at CYTIES put them to the modern explorer test, and man, was it a good time. Ombraz will easily become your go-to, grab and conquer the world sunglasses. We had to hear more from the founders Jensen Brehm and Nikolai Paloni on how the concept came to be, what adventures they get into, and what the future of Ombraz looks like.
CYTIES: Tell us more about the Safari in India and how that eventually ended up becoming the inception of the armless frame idea?
Jensen: Oh, man. It was 2012. I was on a camel expedition in Western India. I was pink, my Scandinavian skin sunburnt to a crisp. When *SNAP. someone sat on my sunglasses, and both sidearms broke off. I needed sunglasses, so I took a piece of cord, and tied it around the broken hinges, and wrapped the cord around the back of my head. I couldn’t believe how well the Macgyvered pair worked. They didn’t slip down my nose, they were secure yet more comfortable and when I didn’t need them on, I could drop them around my neck or throw them in my pocket, without fear of breaking them.
I’d be willing to bet you’ve lost, broken, or felt pain on the sides of your head from a pair of sunglasses? Well getting rid of the sidearms and replacing them with a built-in cord solved those problems. I wore that same pair of macgyvered sunglasses for 5 years – through college. This is coming from a guy who loses his wallet once a week. Throughout those 5 years, enough people inquired about the unique design to propel the business idea and lead to the most practical sunglasses in the industry.
CYTIES: How much does the environment of the PNW play into your designs?
Jensen: A lot. Nikolai and I are always outside, and not having to worry about your sunglasses falling off around the water, or that you can throw around your neck or stuff in a pocket is such a game-changer. I think the PNW plays into our brand ethos quite a bit as well. Snowboarding is huge for us, and the difference between 1 or 2 degrees can make the difference between an all-time day and a wet, cementy mess. The last thing we want to do is increase C02 output through our business operations. Since day one, we have focused on building a brand with a net-positive environmental impact through a substantial carbon-negative initiative.
CYTIES: What’s the most extraordinary adventure you have been on with your trusty pair?
Jensen: I just got back from a heli-skiing trip in Juneau. I don’t think it gets much more extraordinary than that.
CYTIES: Any new designs and styles in the works for spring/summer?
Jensen: Next winter we should have two new styles coming online. One of them is more women-centric since our current collection currently doesn’t have any styles super tailored for ladies faces.
CYTIES: Hike in a humid rainforest, or trekk up a snowy mountain. Which one would you prefer?
Jensen: Splitboard up a snowy mountain on a bluebird day. Oof.
Nikolai: Surf in a warm, clean, uncrowded ocean 🙂
CYTIES: What’s on the playlist in the Ombraz workshop, does music influence the brand at all?
Jensen: We run the show out of my 104-year-old grandma’s barn loft, just outside Seattle. Complete with a zipline out the window, and we’ve got a killer sound setup. The neighbors told us. Recently we’ve been on a Carter II and III kick. If you know, you know. Music definitely influences the brand. We like to hit customers with bangers that they might not have heard in a decade, or younger customers that might not have ever heard let’s say, Compton by Guerilla Black.
Nikolai: Along with the bangers, we both like to find undiscovered tunes that our audience has never heard before. We constantly have people hitting us up asking what song we used in an ad. Being able to discover cool new music through a brand makes that brand way more appealing for their audience.
CYTIES: You both are quite the MacGyvers. Have you MacGyvered anything else that you considered making more of?
Jensen: And spill the beans on a future million dollar idea??! Ha. Velcro on the back on the laptop for an external and easily accessible SSD is one of our faves. Nikolai is currently building out a short school bus/tiny home and I am sure it’s packed with a few engineering feats.
Nikolai: The bus is a full-on macgyver project. We love tinkering with stuff. I love building random things.
CYTIES: Bus road trip time! Tell us a little more about the mangrove tree initiative?
Jensen: Sure! Ombraz happens to be the most carbon-negative product, ever.
We plant 20 mangrove trees for every pair of Ombraz we sell, removing 1383X more carbon than is emitted to produce and deliver each pair. No other product delivers this much net-positive environmental impact. We’ve planted over 270,000 mangrove trees and counting.
Our partners at Eden Reforestation Projects plant our trees. When you buy a pair of Ombraz, we send a portion of the proceeds to Eden to plant 20 mangroves. Eden has some rather flourishing mangrove nurseries in Madagascar, where our efforts are focused. ‘Ombra’ means shade in Italian. A pair of Ombraz offers shade for your eyes and provides much-needed shade for deforested coastlines in Madagascar.
CYTIES: What’s the future look like for Ombraz?
Jensen: Develop more styles for more faces, continually innovate our designs and technologies to create THE BEST sunglass for your adventures and plant a shit ton of trees. We’re currently hiring a few mission-critical roles so hopefully these positions help pave the way for an extraordinary future. Ombraz are a piece of gear you need, and we want to make sure everyone has a pair while getting after it outside.
CYTIES: Ride it to the moon, Nikolai… What we love so much about Ombraz is how versatile they are for travel and adventure. Where will you be headed once the world opens back up?
Jensen: We actually spent February working remotely in Michoacan, Mexico. Europe is calling our name. Maybe Portugal.
Nikolai: Ohhhh man, travel.. What is that? I long for it. Please help..
Cop a pair of Ombraz Sunglasses here, and don’t look back. Thanks for chatting with us boys, we’ll be waiting for the converted bus to pick us up soon so we can hit all our City Guides this summer.