Cape Town based Ballo innovates in sustainable design
Cape Town based wooden sunglasses brand, Ballo, is making waves in the international
fashion accessory industry. Each pair of Ballo sunglasses is individually handcrafted using
completely recycled and sustainable raw materials. With a passion to “See things
differently”, the team at Ballo are determined to break down what people see as acceptable
forms of production and business practice, and lead by example.
Alistair Barnes, owner and founder of Ballo, came up with an idea to design and create a
pair of sunglasses that are unique and completely sustainable. He can be described as
down to earth, and this is reflected in the business’ passion for eco-friendly products.
Sticking to their local heritage, Ballo’s range comes in different shapes and sizes with locally
inspired prints showing off the brand’s African design.
The name Ballo is a combination of family names and stems from the Italian term “I dance”.
Alistair is so focused on creating a brand that is real and genuine from every single angle,
that he names each new design after a friend; like the Santini and the Gallo.
Leading by example
Ballo can produce up to 50 pairs of sunglasses a day and every single pair goes through a
series of 22 design processes requiring a huge amount of precision and detail.
This process begins with laminating and pressing thin sheets of wood veneer and tree sap
bio-resin together to form a ‘blank’. Next, the frames are precisely cut using a template
before being sanded and polished before they are ready for the next step. Hinge grooves
are drilled by hand and fitted to the frames. The wood is then treated and ready for the
As a testament to the true craftsmanship, no two pairs are the same and each and every
lens is specially cut to fit its frame.
Naturally, quality control is the last step before the frames are laser etched with branding
and beautifully packaged. The brand’s attention to detail is unparalleled throughout the
process, evident in the recently developed use of a cork lining, which adds comfort,
signature style and rigidity.
Each pair of sunnies is created by specialised craftsmen at the workshop in Woodstock,
Cape Town, and no automated machinery is used during the design process. When asking
Alistair what he finds most difficult about crafting the sunglasses, he says, “the nose part is a
very hard design feature to master because of all the different shapes and sizes out there.
But we have it down to a fine art and now offer a range of different shapes”.
The initial combination of wood veneer and recycled paper was so durable that it allowed the
team at Ballo to experiment with other materials on the exterior of the frames. The first
material used was a pair of the designers old jeans, and since then they have used
ShweShwe fabric and cork offcuts, old advertising billboards and hemp canvas offcuts.
“The unique combination of materials, grains and fabric patterns make every Ballo frame
unique. The final touches are spring hinges for comfort and custom fit Polarized lenses for
each frame. Sustainability and durability are core principles of the brand and are being
carried through to the range of apparel we are currently developing,” Alistair explains.
This is because China has been fine tuning their hemp production for thousands of years
and have managed to perfect a process that has almost no impact on the environment.
Typically, brands in the fashion industry will launch a new range every season, but for Ballo,
this is not so. New models are designed and produced as and when inspiration hits. This
removes the pressure and allows the business to produce simply amazing eyewear. To find
out more, visit www.ballo.co.za