Sam Stevenson, founder of eyewear brand Pared and who is back in Sydney for a few weeks, is the image of laidback chic. She breezes into our interview in a pair of wide-legged culottes and a sleeveless white shirt, hair tied in a topknot. But it is her sunglasses that command all the attention. An elongated cat-eye style, they are cast in clear acetate with a futuristic metal detail across the tips. They are striking, modern and yet essentially classic with their ’50s-inspired shape.
These sunglasses – “they’re called Puss and Boots,” Stevenson says, smiling – are the very same style that first caught the attention of designer Emma Mulholland last year in Bali. The pair were later introduced through mutual friends and instantly began sketching out the foundations of an eyewear collaboration that would debut at Mulholland’s Mercedes-Benz Australian Fashion Week show. Featuring mirrored lenses, tongue-in-cheek wave arms, and graphic cat-eye shapes, the six-piece collection was a perfect compromise between Mulholland’s unashamedly ‘80s-revival aesthetic and Stevenson’s own elegant streetwear style.
“The process [with Mulholland] was super collaborative,” Stevenson says. “We were both in Bali at the same time and we would just work all day.” While the detailing – from the graph-paper bridges to the Crayola purple and sea-green acetate – is undeniably Mulholland, Stevenson says she will be translating elements of the collaboration into her own collections. “I want to take some of these shapes back into my mainline in Pared colours,” Stevenson says. “It’s really nice to work with someone who is so different to me. It makes me think outside the box and pushes me to find new techniques.”
Stevenson is fast becoming the collaboration queen, with previous collections for jewellery label POMS and an upcoming range for Ginger & Smart. Her dream collaboration partner? “Céline, Yves Saint Laurent, Proenza Schouler,” Stevenson ticks the names off on her fingers. “And Carine Roitfeld, I am obsessed with her. If she wore my sunglasses I would be … wow.”
It’s a dream that shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. Pared eyewear is that unique Australian label: one that feels simultaneously both local and international. Founded in 2012 after Stevenson moved to Bali with her boyfriend, Pared combines the relaxed, sun-drenched mindset of Australia with an eye for trend and colour. The unisex glasses are stand-out thanks to their gradient lenses and the combination of classic frames (tortoiseshell, black and block-colour acetates) with bold accents and attention to detail.
Each collection takes a particular time and place as its inspiration. “Last season it was Palm Spring in the ‘50s, next season it’s Morocco in the ‘70s,” Stevenson says. Featuring acetates flecked through with glitter and a soft, feminine colour palette of nudes and blushes, the range evokes the sand-dusted glamour of Talitha Getty’s Marrakesh.
“It’s a land of eternal sunshine,” Stevenson muses. “It’s perfect for my brand. There aren’t as many distractions.” The close proximity to Australia is another benefit, Stevenson tells us. Every few months she returns to Sydney to sell the collection, work on collaborations and grow the brand. “Sometimes I feel like I live a double life,” she laughs.