FEATURES

In Detroit, Making Handcrafted Glasses is a Passion

In Detroit, Making Handcrafted Glasses is a Passion

By Mark Sullivan

Sean Yargeau says that when he and Brandon Davis created their first pair of eyeglasses, they didn’t have the slightest idea that it would become their life’s work.

“We were making architectural models at the time,” says Yargeau, one of the cofounders of Detroit’s Sharklion. “We were using a lot of wood, and just to see if we could do it we made pair of glasses. Then we made the next pair, and the next pair, and now it’s six years later.”

The digital fabrication studio that Yargeau and Davis — a fellow architecture major at Michigan’s Lawrence Technological University — launched in Detroit’s industrial district now produces eyeglasses. Each is a one-of-a-kind creation, depending on the shape of the frame and the grain of the wood.

Sharklion will be showing off its work at the Creator Awards, sponsored by WeWork. Over the course of the year, WeWork will be giving out more than $20 million at a series of events taking place in cities spanning the globe.

The next Creator Awards event will be held in Detroit on May 25, with applications accepted through May 12. Finalists from throughout the Midwest and Canada will compete for $1.5 million.

“After making the third or fourth pair, we started looking to see if any other brands were out there,” says Yargeau. “They all looked similar: very thick to make the frames strong enough. Otherwise you have to worry about them breaking.”

Yargeau and Davis experimented with using thin layers of wood veneer, rather than solid wood. Then, they had a breakthrough: adding carbon fiber to make them durable.

That’s what took it to the next level,” says Yargeau.

Sharklion launched its first product line at the end of 2015. Each of the styles is named after the architectural elements of Detroit’s history that inspired them. The Russell, for example, was inspired by the Russell Industrial Center, a century-old warehouse space where they still manufacture their frames.

As the company grew, they realized that their gritty workshop had some limitations. They hit on the idea of displaying their line at Detroit’s WeWork Merchant’s Row, transforming the office into a showroom.

“We were manufacturing our eyewear in our woodshop and shutting down production to clean up and have clients come in,” says Yargeau. “So we decided we needed a great habitat for meeting up with a client. Wework’s environment was the perfect place to bring people in and display our work.”

Here they show off the line of six designs on a beautiful display made of white marble that shows off the wood grain.

*“It’s amazing,” says Yargeau. “The more we talk to people and tell our story, the more intrigued they are with our eyewear. It is becoming more and more rare to be able to know where the things we buy come from and I believe it’s important to people to have that connection to something they use every day; Something they can care about and make them excited every time they use it.”