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Step aside, Ray Ban

By Katie Beiter | The Media Line

October 26, 2016

MIDEAST STREETS ™
Photo: Courtesy
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New Omani Brand of Wooden, Floating Sunglasses

From classic designer styles like the black Ray Ban aviators, to trendier styles like Fendi’s Mirrored Geometric Sunglasses, people in the Middle East take their sunglasses very seriously.

So, meet Kashmah, the trendy, new sunglass brand taking the Omani and Middle Eastern world by storm.

Designed and created in Oman by Hamed Ali, a 28 year-old mechanic engineer graduate from Sultan Qaboos University, Kashmah, which translates to “sunglasses” in Hindi, is a new brand of sunglasses, featuring floating glasses made of wood.
“I chose Kashmah because my grandad and the older Omani generation used to call sunglasses kashmah so I just wanted to bring it back,” Ali said. Emirati Omani Arabic has incorporated many Hindi words.

The sunglasses, which are priced roughly between $100 and $142 USD, are made with different types of wood: ebony, bamboo, zebra, skateboard, rosewood, and bamboo, to give them a “natural” look and to ensure they float.
“We design them in Oman and we manufacture them in Hong Kong because we don’t have the (necessary) wood in Oman.

These are the only Arab sunglasses in Oman, as far as I know,” Ali said.

The seven different styles of Kashmah look like Ray Bans with a twist. From the more-classic circular black bamboo glasses with black lenses to the trendy pink-lensed, zebra wood shades, the glasses all feature polarized lenses, which are necessary with the strong sun and scorching temperatures in the Middle East.

The company even features two styles of medical glasses. The “Camel Eyes” and “Sleepy Eyes,” which come in beige, walnut black wood and black, skateboard wood, respectively, and are priced at a little over $100 USD, have interchangeable lenses, allowing wearers the ability to use them for prescription glasses or sunglasses.

Similarly to other designer sunglasses, which feature the label written on the arm of the glasses, all of Kashma’s styles feature an engraving of Kashmah in Arabic on both arms of the glasses.

The Muscat-based company donates 10% of all profits to charities specializing in optical issues, like those that support eye corrective surgeries.

Ali, who worked at an oil company in Saudi Arabia for four and a half years before moving back to Oman, came up with the idea upon his return. The engineer teamed up with his best friend, Ibrahim Abdullah, to design and create the floating sunglasses, funding the initial manufacturing from both men’s savings accounts.

“I am a diver and, when I used to go on diving trips, I lost lots of glasses,” Ali said. “So, I thought, why not have something that can flat?”

Those who have attempted the underwater sport know all too well how easy it is for sunglasses to fall off and sink to the bottom of the ocean, lost for good.

“I’ve probably lost about five pairs of sunglasses,” Oliver Park, a diving instructor from Go Dive Oman, told The Media Line. “I think (kashmah) is quite a good idea because people are losing their sunglasses all the time and it’s a lot easier to collect them if they float.”

Stuart Martin, another diving instructor at Lua Lua diving in Oman, agrees with Park: “I mean, I’m underwater all the time and anything that floats is good in my opinion. I also like the idea of wooden sunglasses – it’s pretty cool, from a design point of view,” he added.

Floating sunglasses are not a new trend, but floating wooden sunglasses created by an Omani man for the Arab world are unique.

“When we started the idea, we wanted (the glasses) to be in an Arab style with an Arabic logo,” Ali told The Media Line.

“We wanted to create something for Oman. We wanted people to support the local brands.”
He said they wanted to show Omanis that they do not need to buy poorly made plastic sunglasses just because they have a designer brand, but instead they could buy sunglasses that are good quality, priced fairly, and created by Omanis themselves.

Ali says he has gotten good feedback from Omanis and has even received orders from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and London. Ali and his team of five in Muscat, the capital of Oman, have another collection in the works for early next year.

Katie Beiter is a student journalist with The Media Line

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