HEART OF GLASSES: Zoobug
IF YOU’VE TRIED unsuccessfully to get your wee ones to wear sunglasses, then you probably haven’t heard of Zoobug.
Zoobug’s founder, 33-year-old Dr Julie Diem Le, the Vietnam-born ophthalmologist who moved to the UK aged four and trained as an eye surgeon, might not have had to do the persuading first hand, but as an aunt to her niece Emma, she’s been known to trawl the shops in search of the best in everything from snowsuits to sunnies.
Which is how Zoobug came to pass. “I was trying to find some suitable sunglasses that had enough UV protection, looked good and could also take the strain of being handled by children,” says Julie. “Since I couldn’t find any, I decided to create them myself. At the time it was an innovative idea to have adult standards of protection in kids’ sunglasses.”
The admission comes as a bit of a shock. But indeed most of us haven’t questioned the quality of cheap plastic highstreet sunglasses too rigorously.
“We’ve become used to buying ‘toy’ sunglasses for kids because there are so many available on the high street,” answers Dr Julie. “But the problem with these types of sunglasses is you can’t be sure they offer the maximum UV protection that complies to stringent international standards. Nor do their lenses necessarily offer optical clarity which means you do not see clearly when you look through the lens. It is only recently that parents have started to be more aware of the variations in quality and the different type of lenses on offer, and I’d like to see much more being done to educate parents about the importance of quality UV protection for their kid’s eyes.”
But now that we are more aware of eye health, says Julie, it’s time to take it further. Not just better quality sunnies, but having your children’s eyes tested regularly from a very young age. “Poor vision is a hindrance in a child’s development,” she points out, “and failure to recognise it can also cause problems for an individual in their adult life. Many parents don’t know that their kid’s eyes can be tested for free on the NHS, for example, and that you do not have to be able to read for an optician to find out about a child’s vision.”
Serious health implications aside, the appeal of Zoobug’s glasses (which are now available in prescription versions and not just as sunglasses) lies not just in design details like bendy rubber tipped arms that stay on and feel comfortable, but their supercool styling, the inspiration for which comes from Julie’s love of vintage and retro design. Highlights include the bright pink Daisy flower frames, (pictured above, from £30), bi-coloured frames, and unusual textures like the laser-cut 3D chequered pattering on the sides of the new wraparound Zoom model (pictured left, from £34). “Kids love products with grown-up styling, but which meet their specific wishes in terms of colour and detail,” explains Julie, “so we offer very bright tones, unusual quirky colour combinations using clever acetate layering techniques and interesting details”. Plus there’s an added mascot toy – Sunny the camel or Pinky the elephant that wraps around wrists or glasses cases as a reminder for very young children to put their specs on.
As for niece Emma’s favourite style? “She is having lots of fun wearing the Butterfly sunglasses (from £36, pictured on Emma, top), an oversized vintage style, reminiscent of 1950s/1960s butterfly shapes. We offer this model in pink, purple or blue. Emma loves the diamanté detail on the front.” Who wouldn’t?
*Dr Julie Diem Le’s advice for buying sunglasses for kids this summer:
1. Avoid toy sunglasses that offer no protection.
2. Look for the British Standard BS EN 1836:2005 (or equivalent).
3. Choose good quality lenses that cover the eyes completely.
4. Ensure the fit is right.