Lexxola sunglasses cost a little under $300 (or £190), but they’re all over TikTok. Often spotted on celebs to influencers, the glasses’ retro shapes and colorful lenses have become an easily identifiable part of an internet uniform of sorts. Among its fans are some of the biggest tastemakers of the moment, including Emma Chamberlain, Tinx, Dua Lipa, Kourtney Kardashian and Kaia Gerber.
Though 27-year-old London-based founder Zane Saleh couldn’t have known his brand would be such a hit with celebrities, he did see an opportunity to change the way sunglasses are marketed. He started to explore the market and found a white space around inclusion, as well as community. After all, Ray-Ban “doesn’t need to innovate, because they’re Ray-Ban,” he said. He also wanted to show sunglasses as “tools for year-round use,” versus summer-specific styles. If most sunglasses were made for lounging on beaches, Lexxola would be made for city-dwellers to wear on vacation, but also when it’s still sunny in November.
According to Saleh, innovation comes in the relationship that the brand has with its community. It’s also in the way it leverages customer feedback to improve upon its product and avoid waste in manufacturing. For its part, he said, Lexxola operates in a “weird position somewhere between a brand and a service company.” For example, the company officially launched in 2019, and it’s already changed its best-selling style, the Damien, three or four times.
“One of the issues that customers were having was that there was a sizing issue with the temples. So we had focus groups [to get it right], and we gathered as much information as possible [from people] making returns. We then changed the dimensions of the product, and right away, it reduced returns on the product by 90%,” he said.
Another example of data-driven design: a new launch, the Antonio, was designed to essentially be the lovechild of the Damien and another bestseller, the Jordy. “We fused the two styles together to create this new style, and people are going crazy for it.”
This community-driven approach is a part of why Saleh thinks the brand has resonated with a younger audience. Gen Z is very much is buying luxury products, but they’re not everyday purchases, he said. “A lot of our customers contact us, asking if [particular styles are still available] because they’re saving up for them,” he said.
However, he said, “we’re aware that, especially for our demographic, it’s an expensive luxury product, right?” So when the New York Post ran a story on dupes for the brand, “We put it on our Instagram stories and said, ‘Swipe up. We love dupes. Here’s where you can shop to get the best Lexxola dupes.”
“What we’re trying to do is deliver a feeling that makes people feel great,” he said. “And if they can’t afford it, who are we to deprive them?” People wearing dupes often still tag the brand on social media, to which Saleh said, “Yeah, you’re part of [the community].”
Of course, the styles themselves have to be cool, too. “What’s really made the product stand out is that it’s super-expressive. Gen Z continuously wants to express themselves digitally, especially in the post-Covid era, where people are at home and trying to communicate with each other online. And if you go on TikTok, you can’t scroll much without seeing the product. It’s definitely the expressive colors, the interesting shapes, the colored lenses — they’ve become sort of bigger than the brand,” Saleh said. “A great jeans company can get lost in a photo, but we’ve been really fortunate that it’s a product that’s very recognizable.”
All of these factors — the loud, recognizable styles; the inclusive approach; the fact that “every type of person can relate to someone that wears our product” and the brand’s very online community — have played a part in its seemingly sudden ubiquity. But, it’s not something that happened overnight, Saleh said. “It’s been created over time, and it’s been created, not by us, but by everyone else. We’re just sort of ushering the crowd toward the products, and delivering great things that they enjoy and love.”