Local wooden sunglasses brand, Ballo, has been paving the way for sustainable product development. Founded back in 2013, they have produced some covetable fashion products along the way, deeply rooted in a belief of craftsmanship and environmental responsibility, setting the bar high for local fashion brands.
The name Ballo is a combination of family names and stems from the Italian term “I dance”. Founder and owner, Alistair Barnes is so focused on creating a brand that is real and genuine from every single angle, that he names each new design after a friend; like the Santini and the Gallo.
“Our sunglasses are made from locally sourced wood veneer offcuts, recycled paper and tree sap bio-resin that are pressed, cut and shaped by hand. At our workshop in Woodstock, every pair goes through a series of 22 processes each done by one of our specialised craftsmen. We have worked hard to improve our craft and can now produce around 50 pairs a day – efficiency is a focus with each unique pair still completely handcrafted. I love that to make more sunglasses I have to employ more people,” says Alistair.
Ballo, from start to finish
In an ongoing search for more sustainable products and more efficient systems, Ballo has settled on hemp and wood as their chosen raw materials. Although hemp is produced in China and shipped half way across the world, it is still more sustainable than the likes of a much nearer option, Zimbabwean cotton. This is because of the way in which hemp is produced – it is still better for the environment than driving trucks down from Zimbabwe. Alistair discovered this through extensive research and making use of the Zimbabwean cotton as a comparison to the Chinese hemp.
As with all new brands, over the years, Ballo has endured a roller-coaster ride in an attempt to produce a world class product that is completely responsible and sustainable. The workshop uses no water during the production process, minimal electricity, very few yet, highly skilled staff and almost entirely recycled raw materials.
Each pair of sunnies are put together by hand and whether it be polishing the arms or pressing the layers together, nothing is automated. All it takes is to step into the Ballo workshop to realise how well the manufacturing process is thought out, from the resins to the wood, nothing is wasted.
At the Ballo store in the Bo Kaap, Cape Town, Alistair has set up a stunning display of products and innovation. To further reduce waste, Ballo makes use of the offcuts and hemp products from the production line and reworks them into anything from pots for plants to laptop stands. Even the clothing racks are made from alien trees and dowels instead of screws and nails.
Something that is very close to Alistair’s heart is giving back to Mother Earth; Ballo sponsors the South African Eco Film Festival that is geared towards showcasing films that introduce sustainable living choices and world issues alike.
Ballo is always on the lookout for new ways in which to help give back to the earth and to help educate people on making the right choices for the planet. Ballo is an excellent example of a local company successfully trying their very best to exist sustainably and practice responsible production.
Founder and owner, Alistair Barnes started the company five years ago in the Mother City. In a matter of months; he had a brand, had produced his first pair of shades, sold them at The Old Biscuit Mill and exported his first order to Germany. Ballo has slowly expanded their range into the apparel market, using hemp as the material of choice. Men’s T’s, shorts, caps, bum-bags and totes, all coming soon. Check out all the products and news online at www.ballo.co.za or pop in to the store and try some on for yourself. Bo Op, 102 Wale Street, Bo Kaap, Cape Town.
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