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Bambooka Sunglasses – Our Vision for a Brighter Future

Bambooka Sunglasses – Our Vision for a Brighter Future Why Charity for Selfish Reasons is the Gift that Keeps on Giving Bambooka is at the forefront of fashion, in a way almost no other brand can be. We’re a progressive, non-profit organisation taking on traditional business practices, traditional fashion trends, and traditional ideas on how […]

Bambooka Sunglasses – Our Vision for a Brighter Future

Why Charity for Selfish Reasons is the Gift that Keeps on Giving

Bambooka is at the forefront of fashion, in a way almost no other brand can be. We’re a progressive, non-profit organisation taking on traditional business practices, traditional fashion trends, and traditional ideas on how we think about charity, all at the same time. We’re also taking on poverty in some of the world’s most deprived societies – and with a growing number of famous faces behind the glasses, we’re going from strength to strength.

Behind our exceptional brand are a group of no less exceptional people, starting with our founders: husband and wife, Baz and Ruth van Cranenburgh, who’ve masterminded Bambooka since its inception back in 2010. You’re not likely to meet many Ruth or Baz van Cranenburghs, and they very much do their names justice when it comes to the unique, the larger-than-life, and the ever-so-slightly comic book genius.

The problem with charity

Like most of us, before they founded Bambooka, Baz and Ruth would do the odd bit of fundraising, and support friends and family in their own charitable endeavours. What they really wanted to do was something that could make a difference in the long-term, but there was one aspect of fundraising that they found increasingly concerning. No matter how worthy theirs would be, the sheer number of similarly good causes we come across in our day-to-day lives puts charities in constant competition with each other. Their question was: how do we get people to increase the money they give to such causes, without allowing them to become ‘charity fatigued’?

Baz and Ruth founders of Bambooka ( with a group of volunteers on a charity trek.

(Baz far right in the orange jacket and Ruth third from the left wearing a head band).

Baz’s solution was simple: instead of having charities compete with other charities for donations – have them compete with businesses for revenue. The challenge was to find a product that would sell on its own merit, that could be produced with an ethical business model, and that could generate a steady income, rather than rely on the repeat generosity of others. With a background in the optical market, the answer was almost literally right in front of his eyes: bamboo frame sunglasses. “When we started Bambooka”, says Baz, “bamboo eye-wear simply didn’t exist. We were in awe when we saw them and wore our first pair, and immediately saw it as an opportunity.”

a photo of a range bamboo wood sunglasses from Bambooka

The vision

Bamboo sunglasses offered the Van Cranenburghs a chance to do four things:

  • Raise money: provide a revenue stream by being an innovative, desirable product, that doesn’t rely on charitable sentiment to push sales
  • Replace charity with innovation: a product that’s relatively simple and cheap to produce, they offer a sustainable source of income to a chosen community
  • Benefit the planet: produce and promote a product made from an ultra-carbon-friendly, biodegradable material
  • Influence society: with such a visible fashion accessory, you can make a statement about how even fashion needn’t be superficial, and how charity needn’t rely on generosity

Having worked for several big brands in the optical market, Baz set about securing the support of some key individuals he’d known in the industry. With Ruth’s help, he pitched the astounding properties of bamboo as a material and as a plant, and his idea of using business ingenuity to turn self-centeredness on its head, as a weapon to defeat poverty.

Seeing Africa prosper

Sure enough, the couple gradually assembled a team of passionate volunteers, ranging from top digital agency Founded who built Bambooka’s website for free, to a former UK director of B&L Ray-Ban, Kevin Couch. One key figure in the team was David Phillips, Co-founder of the UK charity PEPEPeople Empowered Preserved Earth, supporting African Community projects. David was able not just to provide invaluable direction on how the venture could be run, but also a direct link to a community project in Amasame, South Africa, which provides vocational training and education in the remote community.

PEPE, and the people of rural South Africa were to be the partners in, the beneficiaries of and the inspiration behind the project. Bambooka – Eyewear Africa, was born. Fastforward to 2016, and with our growing success, we’d also pledged to donate a portion from the sale of every pair of our shades to Vision Aid Overseas, who give access to vision care and provide vision correction for people in Africa. So, every time someone buys a pair of Bambookas, you’ll be helping an African child or an adult see their way toward a brighter future.

As Baz puts it, “the passion we developed for the product, and our motivation to help the folks in Amasame through PEPE and later Vision Aid Overseas, worked like a perfect storm, and resulted in the unique and truly charitable fashion brand Bambooka is today.”

7 Reasons Bambooka Puts the Competition in the Shade

We’re lucky to have support from all across the globe, from like-minded people, celebrities, businesses and organisations who want to see people put before profit. We’ve even made it onto the Amnesty International online shop. But what makes our glasses worth buying?

1. Look fantastic
First and most importantly, we’re a fashion brand. We’re after cult status, not sympathy. Like so many of our wearers, our brand has depth, integrity and authenticity, but when it comes down to it, the fashion world is about what’s on the outside. To be a success, we have to beat the big guys at their own game – pure style. We’ve already been featured in Vogue Spain, so watch this space.

2. Be noticed
Although most of our looks are based on classic sunglass styles, the unique material always sets you apart from the crowd. Close-up or even sat on the desk, the polished frames have an air of the ornamental, and colour options mean you can customise your look, whether you want sass or subtlety.

3. Be unique
Most sunglasses are mass-produced in factories, for thousands of wearers to try and push their individuality with identikit sunnies. To us, that makes no sense at all. Bambooka sunglasses are made by real people, not by machines, and as such they come with irregularities and minor imperfections – no two pairs are identical. The unique grain of each bamboo frame leads to subtle differences in pattern, shape and dimension – even within each of our models.

4. Look great, see better
Practicality doesn’t stop with our frames. They are fitted with either a quality, highly scratch-resistant CR39 lens, or a polarised lens, both of which offer 100% UV protection. A number of designs are available, and on request, we can deliver frames which can be fitted with a prescription lens.

5. Forget your Bambookas…
They’re super light, and they float! Because of their weight (around half as much as metal or acetate equivalents) it’s easy to forget you’re wearing them – always a sign of a good pair of glasses. We’re not sure if that’s a good thing as far as absent minded shade-wearers are concerned, but at least they can easily be fished out of the sea, the pool, or anything else you might’ve dropped them into…

6. Keep one eye on the future
We’re all about sustainable growth, for people and planet. Because it takes just five years for bamboo shoots to reach maturity, a relatively small area will produce all the bamboo we need. So regeneration is super quick, and deforestation is safely avoided. After covering the cost of raw materials, manufacture and distribution, the money we generate from sales of Bambooka shades is invested into providing education and opportunity for the people of Amasame. And so the process continues.

7. Help preserve the planet
Bamboo is far more environmentally friendly to refine than plastic or metal are, and when it’s harvested, the waste products are biodegradable. We all know bamboo grows really fast, but what you might not realise is that its growth requires a whole load of carbon dioxide – far more than wood does. And when it comes to transporting both the raw bamboo and the finished product, the exceptionally low weight reduces carbon footprint still further. In fact, although we can’t say this for sure just yet, it’s possible that Bambooka is a carbon-neutral business.

Our Advocates

When it comes to being seen, we’re lucky enough to have the support of some hugely talented people, from across the world of entertainment. As you’ll note, we’re particularly well-represented by jazz musicians – perfect for us, as they’re just about the only people who can pull off wearing sunglasses indoors! Here’s a quick intro to a few of them.

A photo of actor Fionn Whitehead (an advocate for Bambooka sunglasses) wearing the model Kalahari from their Bamboo wood range of sunglasses

Name: Fionn Whitehead

Occupation: Actor

Known for: A relatively new face on the small screen, you might’ve caught Fionn in ITV’s ‘Him’. But if you don’t recognise the name yet, you definitely will very soon – he’s due to star in upcoming BBC drama series The Children Act, opposite Emma Thompson, not to mention 2017’s most hotly anticipated blockbuster film, Christopher Nolan’s historical epic, Dunkirk. With a resumé like that, Fionn could soon be sporting his Bambookas on the red carpet!
Favourite Bambookas: Kalahari

A photo of Jazz-funk musician Fred Wesley (an advocate for Bambooka sunglasses) wearing the model Ubuntu from their Bamboo wood range of sunglasses

Name: Fred Wesley

Occupation: Jazz-funk musician

Known for: As trombonist and music director for the one and only James Brown, and his band the JBs, Fred secured his place in funk history forever. One third of the amazing JB Horns, this legendary bandleader and now author is still setting the standard with his jazz-funk band The New JBs. As a long-time advocate of Bambooka, when it’s come to spreading the word in the jazz scene, ‘Funky’ Fred Wesley has been, well, instrumental.
Favourite Bambookas: His prescription Ubuntu

Name: Carleen Anderson

Occupation: Soul singer & composer

Known for: Like Fred, Carleen is a member of the Soul extended royal family, with both her parents playing prominent parts in the James Brown story. She’s stayed true to her musical roots in the civil-rights era US, bringing an authentic taste of Southern soul to the UK scene. An immensely talented lady with a fascinating story, we were honoured to commemorate Carleen’s life and achievements with her own special edition Bambookas back in 2012.

Favourite Bambookas: Her own Special Editions!

A photo of Soul Jazz-funk musician Pee Wee Ellis (an advocate for Bambooka sunglasses) wearing the model SAHARA from their Bamboo wood range of sunglasses

Name: Pee Wee Ellis

Occupation: Jazz-funk musician

Known for: Saxophonist extraordinaire Pee Wee is our second acquisition from James Brown’s three man horn section, the JB Horns. Having played alongside the Godfather of Soul way back in the 60s, Pee Wee then went on to work with Van Morrison and his band from 1979 well into the 2000s, and has collaborated with countless other jazz and soul luminaries. A true gentlemen and a living legend, we’re delighted to have him on board!

Favourite Bambookas: Touareg

Thanks for reading Bambooka’s story up until now. We would love for you to be part of the next chapter, get involved by finding what pair of Bambookas  take your fancy.

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