Partner Profile Q&A – George Bailey, Coral Eyewear

We are excited to welcome Coral Eyewear to our family of partners and spoke with founder, George Bailey about the unique story of his sustainable eyewear brand.

Q: You founded Coral Eyewear in 2019 whilst you were still a student at the University of East Anglia – how did the opportunity first come about?

My family have been in the optical industry for around 30 years and then at university, I started a course which focused heavily on addressing climate change and raising awareness for innovative solutions. The ‘Blue-Planet effect’ has rapidly changed behaviours with regards to single-use and virgin plastic, with reusable water bottles and other household products now becoming commonplace. However, there has not really been a brand which has combined high-quality glasses/sunglasses with recycled materials. With over 34 million prescriptions for vision correction in the UK alone it’s staggering the amount of plastic being used. But whilst big manufacturers have to focus on reducing their negative impact, I wanted Coral Eyewear to lead the way and change the conversation to be one about maximising our ‘planet-positive’ impact. Our glasses are created with waste taken from oceans and landfill, which we send out in plastic-free packaging via a carbon-neutral delivery service. Eyewear is worn by millions every day, and we saw the opportunity to make a significant statement for environmental change.

Q: Local Sports Presenter and TV Personality, Jake Humphrey was an early supporter – how did he help you at the start and what role does he now play at Coral?

Jake does a lot of work with the local community in Norfolk, including a scholarship scheme he runs with his wife Harriet where they pay for students who otherwise couldn’t afford to study at university to secure a place on the media course at UEA. It was through this relationship that Jake heard about our idea for creating recycled glasses and sunglasses and, after running through some of the details on the number of ghost fishing nets in our oceans and the number of pairs of eyewear created with virgin plastic, it was clear Jake’s passion matched our own and he’s been heavily involved in spreading the message ever since.

Q: Sustainability is obviously a key focal point (pardon the pun!) for the business – was this something you were already passionate about before you started Coral?

I’ve made some gradual changes over the past few years to try and reduce the amount of single-use plastic I use, as well as eating plant-based food most of the time. Living in a university city like Norwich helps a lot too, as I tend to walk or cycle everywhere. I think with worldwide campaigns like Veganuary bringing new alternatives onto supermarket shelves every year, there are more and more people making choices that they would never had considered just a few years ago.

Q: Can you tell us more about the manufacturing processes involved and the recycled materials used in your products?

Our glasses and sunglasses are produced from a material called ECONYL, a regenerated nylon. It starts with rescuing waste found at sea and in landfills, sorting and cleaning the plastic to recover the nylon. The regeneration process reduces the global warming impact of nylon by up to 90% when compared with creating the material from oil. Before we started creating our eyewear, the material was already being used as a yarn for creating sports kits and swimwear. However, I believe this is the first time it’s ever been solidified to create a base strong enough for glasses in the UK. All of our eyewear is designed by industry-professionals in the UK and handcrafted in Italy.

There are a lot of fashion brands launching collections created with recycled materials at the moment which is a great step in the right direction. However, very few of them are looking at what happens after a customer has used the product, so we’re launching a frame recycling scheme, which sets us apart from the other “sustainable” designers. Our community can send their glasses or sunglasses back to us and then receive money off their new frame. Without this circular approach, the so-called sustainable material will quickly find its way back into oceans and landfill; we’re proud to support the Norwich BID’s Circular Economy project to show that adopting this kind of model can help businesses save money, as well as natural resources.

Q: Coral was first introduced to Mahindra Racing through our driver, Alexander Sims, who himself is now an ambassador for your brand – what attracted you to a partnership with the team in Formula E and are there any specific goals you want to achieve

It was the forward-thinking nature of Mahindra Racing that made the team such an attractive partner. To be the first manufacturer to sign up to Formula E in 2014 and then to be the first team to commit to the upcoming Gen3 era shows their passion for the series. And with this season’s driver line-up and the new ZF powertrain they look set to be super competitive this year. We’re proud that the whole team at Mahinda Racing have made the switch to our recycled sunglasses. Across the whole of Season 7, we’re asking our community to make one pledge to support the environment and we hope that collectively we can make a real impact. Of course, Alexander wearing our glasses whilst behind the wheel is another unique opportunity for us and we’re excited to work alongside him and the team to all do our part to create a more sustainable future.

Don’t forget to check out the full range of Coral Eyewear’s recycled sunglasses at their website, where you can also enter our #MyPledge competition to win the ultimate Race Experience with Mahindra Racing: