An often overlooked part of an otherwise well executed look, sunglasses can make all the difference – even in winter. A pair of well-made sunglasses will not only finish off your outfit, but will provide necessary protection from the sun – something inferior pairs, without proper UV protection, do not.

Forget big name designer brands, smaller independents such as Oscar Deen offer both style and substance in equal measure, and are the ideal place to start if you’re on the lookout for stylish shades that look cool as well as protect. 

Each Oscar Deen design has been meticulously hand-crafted from the finest Italian acetate, ensuring they’re built to last. Taking inspiration from retro sunglasses found at markets across Europe, the London-based brand is making waves in the world of eyewear, so to get an insight into how they work we spoke to the founders, Oscar Phillips and Sheriff-Deen Showobi. 

What were you both doing before the launch of Oscar Deen?

SD: We were at university and pursued individual careers in Fintech and the creative industries, we actually started Oscar Deen whilst in full time jobs.

What was the initial impetus behind Oscar Deen?

SD: It might sound strange, but at first we were most excited about teaming up and to see what we could achieve. We’d been friends for a long time before this point and a part of what brought us together was an appreciation of each other's style. After that our goal was to create a product of the highest quality, that is reasonable and sustainable. Finally we wanted to create a brand that represents London’s best values as we see them - openness, a sense of adventure and a healthy lick of cheek. 

How do your roles differ within the company?

OP: Despite having defined roles in some administrative parts of the business, our positions are quite fluid, each taking the lead on various projects whilst handing things over when one or the other runs out of steam or hands as we juggle more. That said, we work on most things together 

As long-time friends, how have you found the process of navigating a new dynamic as business partners? 

SD: They say you shouldn't get into business with friends... but that hasn't been the case for us. We’d grown a level of regard for each other both personally and creatively, often complementing each other on our eye or ear for things.We also lived with each other at uni which is a baptism of fire for any friendship so the business dynamic came pretty easily.

How do you approach an Oscar Deen design?

OP: As when we first started, it all begins with a pair of vintage frames. Where we find these frames has changed though. In the beginning we mostly spent our time in London talking to collectors and trawling markets, but as time’s gone by we’ve criss-crossed Europe on our perennial hunt for old treasure. Once back in the workshop through a process of research, sketch and discussion we break down our finds element by element. Our aim is always to maintain something of the aesthetic that drew us to the frames in the first place while updating them and adding our own touches. 

What are your design inspirations?

OP: A big inspiration for us is the architecture we see every day in London. The transition of and integration from new to old especially in the city and central London is a big influence. As is the street art often scrawled on it. I’d also add that we’re inspired to create by disparate contemporary creators across the arts and music. Polly Nor, Reuben Dangoor, Mike Skinner and Kojey Radical to name a few. 

What are the most important things you’ve learnt throughout the Oscar Deen journey?

SD: It’s important to always be open to learn from others, and self aware enough to actively take lessons from our own experiences. It is also important to have constant open and honest communication.

Do you ever find yourselves in a creative rut? How do you combat it?

SD: We work on the majority of projects together, and in those instances we honestly don’t encounter many blocks, however as we’ve grown, one or the other of us will lead on certain projects. Individually, we sometimes do have creative blocks but in those instances we come together to come up with ideas and create ways to get around them. 

You both hail from London – what do you love most about the city?

OP: For me it’s the diversity. The mixture of people living together in one city breeds a culture of creating, be that food, music or art and I love how this stage creates its own energy and drive that feels unique to London.

SD: Constant inspiration, be it from people, buildings, the energy of the place even the tube! We are doers, and London feels like a city built on people making things happen. 

What are your personal favourite styles from the range?

OP: I can’t believe you’re asking us to pick between our babies! One of the luxuries of building your own sunglasses brand is that every morning I get to decide from the entire collection which pair to wear! 

SD: Unlike Oscar, I’m happy to choose a fav from the kids. Mine is Fraser in Mocha. It's the first style we made, I love the acetate and they make me feel cool as hell.

How are you filling your spare time at the minute? 

SD: Podcast-wise I recently really enjoyed Have You Heard George's Podcast on the BBC by George the Poet. It's an interesting mix of social commentary and exploring the psychological process of creation. Expect rhyme and very clever use of metaphor. 

OP: I’ve been taking advantage of the lockdown scenario to listen to some albums from beginning to end which has been great. I re-listened to Kano’s album Hoodies All Summer - it's outrageously good and goes nicely with a bit of sunshine. I've also really enjoyed Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn's latest album Breathing Exercises. It's definitely worth listening to.

Other than that I like surprising myself and playing playlists from ages ago that I’d forgotten about, so it’s been nice to hear some blasts from the past - Hues by Affelay, But I Do by Poldoore and Passin’ Me By by The Pharcyde to name a few.

Shop all Oscar Deen at OPUMO.