From Shaving Lives to Shading Eyes - the King of Shades backstory.
My love of sunglasses started in the 1980’s, teaching sailing at the National Sailing Centre. In my late teens, I did a couple of seasons as a Sailing Instructor, out in the Solent daily, running dinghy training and racing courses.
Many of the instructors owned a pair of Bollé or Vuarnet sunglasses, big lenses, very ‘black’ frames, nice logo on the side. In 1986, I went to the London Boat Show and somehow, managed to buy myself a pair - expensive - but boy, did I think I looked cool in them! In fact, when I went to Portsmouth Polytechnic as a student about to study Mechanical Engineering, I did the final year ‘group’ photo in 1987 wearing them, standing in the back row next to my best friend Pat Maris. I must have owned those sunglasses for 10 years or more, I don’t know where they are now – probably ‘lost’ - but I always remembered them. Orange/Yellow lenses, black frames, oversized, I LOVED them.
The next pair I bought were one of the original Oakley Frogskins, which came out in 1985 or thereabouts. Although the Oakley brand had launched in the mid 1970’s, I’d never heard of it, it was only as the whole ‘sports lifestyle’ thing – surfing, windsurfing, skiing, snowboarding - started to gain major momentum in the 80’s and into the 90’s that I heard about them.
Leaving the world of teaching sailing and studying, I ended up working in Central London, and whilst I still sailed when I got the chance, the late 80’s and early 90’s mainly saw me working, sailing in Cowes Week in August. The photo below is from my days at Hedges Wright Creative, a conference & event production company on a 'team building sailing day' I organised out of Hamble.
Apart from these 2 pairs, that was it. Having been made redundant from Hedges Wright, then founding King of Shaves in 1993, it wasn’t until 4 years later, in 1997 that the business had started to make money, and I rediscovered my love of sailing in a big way. That year I’d raced a Laser at Cowes Dinghy Week, coming 1st (something I hadn’t managed in the 80’s), and in 1998 I chartered a yacht to take part in Antigua Sailing Week with my best friend Pat, my Dad and some mates.
From a young age, I wondered ‘how things worked’ and often took them apart, put them back together. I was forever tweaking my Topper or Laser dinghy, seeing if things might be put together in a more effective way (especially the kicking strap on the Topper and Laser!) to make it easier to use. I have never been a fan of wildly complex, difficult to make things, with lots of parts that might fail. Products manufactured thirty years ago often had to comprise many different parts to deliver a product that performed, but you only have to look at how things are made nowadays, especially in the emerging world of additive (3D) printing that you can remove a huge amount of complexity. Indeed, when we came to build out the King of Shaves range, the original product was a shaving oil, that comprised just four parts; a bottle, a cap, a plug and the oil itself. This simplicity, both in manufacture and in operation always appealed to me. I’ve always liked ‘simple’ things, finding them elegant, both in their considered use of materials, and the fact that if there’s less to go wrong, well, that can only be a good thing.
In the early 2000’s, the team and I started work at KoS on developing a razor, which ultimately became the Azor (2007) and Hyperglide (2014). In arriving at the Azor, I eschewed very complex system razor handles, with metal, plastic, attachments, buttons, grips et al, and sought to arrive at a handle that would have huge longevity in use, but very low manufacturing cost. Indeed, where the sunglasses are concerned, I have certainly borrowed from my ideas there, and those of the industrial design team working with me.
For sure, it’s highly unlikely I’d ever have considered ‘starting up again’ at 55 with a sunglasses/eyewear brand without all my learnings in engineering and business, unless the guy who took Tiger’s and my photo at the BMW Mini e-scooter launch at the Vinyl Factory in 2010 had correctly captioned his photo “Will King, Founder King of Shaves” rather than “King of Shades” as he did.
But...the rest is history. Even though it's taken a while to come to life!. You can read how by reading the 'About' section of our website.
I love wearing my SHUGS, I hope you do too.