One of the biggest perks of living in Colorado is the state's reputed 300 days of sunshine. Know what doesn't love that? Your eyes. So Coden Eyewear, a startup company from locals Ben Martch, Gavin Beldt and Gian Lasher, is pushing a new line of sunglasses designed for the Colorado lifestyle, with a range of styles and color options. We recently spoke with owners Martch and Lasher about how the company got started, their plans for the future, and how they spotted a niche that needed to be filled. See also: 300 days of sunshine per year in Denver? Casting a shadow
Westword: Tell me about Coden and what it's like trying to get a new sunglasses brand out in the hands of consumers.
Ben Martch: We've had stores come to us and ask to be in their shop, as well as a lot of online retailers. We've been waiting until the product is on point, until the website is on point, and until everything is ready for the drop. Both Gian, [Gavin Beldt] and I started this as a side project, and now it's about to take over. We've put a lot of time and energy into it.
Gian Lasher: We are really focusing on the branding and getting the content right. We are ready to go. This is just the launch. Once we have the online presence (www.codeneyewear.com), we can use the leverage of that to expand to other outlets. We really want to work with local retailers because they seem to really want to work with local brands. There is something within the past couple years in Colorado that reflects this sort of pride -- this Colorado pride. So local stores working with local brands keeps all of that together. The Coden brand -- Colorado/Denver -- fits right in line with that.
Where are your products currently featured?
GL: I've spoken with several local spots, but I don't want to say anything until the products are in the windows. We've been doing a lot of trade shows and pushing them at local hip-hop shows. We were also at the last DunkXChange, and that event goes all over the country. We did that, and it's so cool running a booth and talking to people doing the same thing but with different products. It's this big community of people showing off their talents.
BM: For us, we recognize that people live online. Obviously, we are going to get local retailers, but the first step for us is really getting the website up and going. Once we get some eyes on the website, you can expand from there to more stores, online shops and everything. We've been working on this brand for over a year, so it's great to see it all come to fruition.
How are you releasing it locally?
BM: We are planning a Coden release party, but nothing has really been set in stone. We aren't in a big rush to do something like that, but with all of our shows with our Collective 360 organization, we are pushing Coden. People hit us up for the gear now, and we haven't done any marketing for it.
GL: Even Instagram! We've been doing small contests through that, and we have been getting huge responses just from that.
Are your friends hitting you up? It seems hard to start a company and not have your friends ask you for free gear. How do explain that you are starting a business, not a charity?
BM: A lot of our friends do, but honestly, me being me and my marketing stuff, I am always looking to promote it like that. Thankfully, Gian reels me back a little bit, but it's a good thing. If artists come to town, we give them to artists. We've had them on everyone from Kid Ink, Rahzel, Method Man, Machine Gun Kelly, 12th Planet... they've all rocked them.
What kinds of styles are you offering?
BM: We have three styles. We have the wayfarer style, or the "Standard AK47" that come in all different colors. Our other style is the Eazies, and they represent the glasses that Eazy-E used to wear. They are polarized, and sort of a higher price point. The other style is the Bamboo ones, or the "Special Ops." Those have bamboo arms, and they have many different options for lenses. We are stuck on those, but that's what we're working with right now. The Bamboo has really popped off. They're made for everyday living.
What generated your interest in starting a sunglasses company?
BM: Myself, Gian and Gavin are all good friends. We've always tried to do something together, and sunglasses came about because we live in Colorado, where we have over 300 days of sunshine per year. It made sense. We wanted to sort of work with that. Then Coden -- sort of a play on Colorado/Denver. There are some cool up-and-coming fashion lines coming out of Colorado, so we're just working within that circle. It's a fun project. As of right now, I don't know anyone else doing that here. Colorado is our home. We would love to expand worldwide -- who wouldn't? But this is our home, and we want to represent that.
What are the price ranges on your products?
GL: They start at $45, which is the basic wayfarer style that we call the AK47, and those come in all sorts of colors. The next one is the Bamboo, or the "Special Ops," which are cool because they're a unique pattern. Those are $90. The Eazies are retailing for $60, and they come in a variety of colors. We aren't trying to rob people for their money. We see people paying $150 to $200 for a pair of sunglasses that has a brand name. We give style. Our logos are 24kt gold-plated, and those are inside the arms of the sunglasses.
BM: On the AK47, the gun logo on the inside is gold-plated.
Who is your target market for the style?
BM: Because this brand is really unisex and sort of a "one size fits all," we want everyone to wear them. However, with that said, we are involved in the music scene and the nightlife scene. We are really geared toward lifestyle-driven males and females who are into hip-hop, EDM and the mountain lifestyle. We have represented Coden at all sorts of concerts, events, trade shows, so the people who are into those scenes and stuff are really who we are aiming toward.
Can people get prescription lenses in your glasses?
GL: That's really on the consumer end of things. We have had people take our frames and go to their doctor and get the lens prescription. We aren't big enough to offer that service. We'd love to get there, but it's not in our current state right now.
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BM: We want to secure this brand and get it off the ground before we try to branch into that market. People have got our glasses and put prescriptions in them.