Ask Marsha Douglas-Sydnor what inspired her to start a nude sunglasses line and she’ll put it bluntly.
“The void,” she tells Bustle. “I was inspired by the lack of inclusion within the eyewear industry. I needed to change it.”
Enter Shades Of Shades, specialized eyewear available in a spectrum of nude hues. Douglas-Sydnor saw the perfect opportunity to blend together her love for eyewear with the clear need for more diversity and inclusion in the space.
“I’ve always loved classic and vintage silhouettes,” she shares. “We hand-select complexion hues with undertones to create nude shades that complement real life skin tones, similar to makeup foundation. From milk complexion to mocha complexion, inclusion and representation are at the forefront of our design process.”
In total, Shades Of Shades offers a 14-complexion palette, and uses high-quality materials — like Mazzucchelli Acetate sourced and handcrafted in Italy — to produce its glasses. Five signature styles are currently available, with endless mixing and matching possibilities.
“I coordinate depending on my mood,” Douglas-Sydnor says. “If I’m having a glamorous kinda day, I will certainly go for the Syndees or Bordeauxs. For a sporty but upscale look, I’m grabbing the Kingstons or the Montreals in Butter Pecan, of course. One of the things I love most about my brand is that I created staple nude pieces that can be worn any season, and dressed up or dressed down.”
“I was inspired by the lack of inclusion within the eyewear industry. I needed to change it.”
The Maryland-born designer is the first to admit that entrepreneurial life comes with rewards and challenges. “I enjoy having the flexibility of spending more time with my young children,” she shares. “Although, surprisingly, I spend more time working for myself than I ever have at a 9-to-5 job. I love the ability to visualize a concept and see it manifest. There is a real joy in watching that unfold.”
Though quarantine means she's busier than usual, she does set aside time to dress up when she can. “I try to make the effort to get quarantine jazzed up,” she says. “But running behind three homeschooled kids, hopping on and off calls, processing orders, in between making lunches, and going over school lesson plans, will usually have me in a crop top and sweats for most of the day.”
If she needs to look put-together quickly — say for a last-minute Zoom call — she’ll reach for timeless, elegant staples. “I love a collared neckline blouse with a strand of pearls,” she shares. “I also love broaches. Even if I’m wearing jeans, it can elevate any wardrobe.”
Elevating how people view themselves is somewhat of a personal mantra for Douglas-Sydnor, and it’s a driving force behind the brand she’s built.
“When they wear a Shades Of Shades piece, I want them to feel an extension of themselves,” she explains. “I want our clients to realize they are one-of-a-kind, and there can never be another you. When you wear your custom nude shade, I want you to feel proud and exclusive, as that is how you were divinely created.”