akoya studios toronto

15-year-old Toronto student spent lockdown creating line of vintage-inspired sunglasses

A Toronto teen turned her lockdown blues into a creative endeavour with her own line of vintage-inspired eyewear.

Claire von Bitter, 15, attends Western Tech and enjoys studying in the school's design stream program but while teachers tried their best, online classes weren't cutting it for her.

"It wasn't as engaging (as in-person)," von Bitter tells blogTO.

She missed time with friends and extra-circular activities so last November she started working on her own line of sunglasses.

In mid-June she launched Akoya Studios, an eyewear brand of vintage-inspired sunglasses made out of sustainable, high-quality plant-based acetate.

"It was really an outlet, to be passionate about something, to look forward to something outside of quarantine. I think it really helped me survive quarantine."

akoya studios toronto

Claire von Bitter, 15, created her own eyewear company. 

Her background in design helped her in creating the sunglasses and she also has an entrepreneurial spirit. Since she was young she had lemonade stands and at 10 years old started a piñata-making company.

She admired sunglasses styles from the 1970s and 1990s, and was inspired to create her own. She contacted manufacturing companies around the world to get her designs made.

Many didn't get back to her but she settled on a company in China that could produce the glasses with the environmentally-friendly acetate material.

Working with a designer at the company, von Bitter sent her drawings and photos.

"You just go back and forth with the designs."

Finally, she had two different styles in two colours each. She funded the endeavour with money saved from previous businesses and babysitting jobs.

The first shipment of glasses came in May and then she put together the website.

Coming up with the name Akoya was challenging. She tried several different names but Akoya is a type of rare, special pearl.

"I really like how pearls are mother's nature's gem."

The company slogan is "the world is your oyster" — drawn from the hopeful, future post-pandemic desire to get out and explore the world.

von Bitter didn't tell her friends about the company and surprised them with it a few weeks before the launch. They were supportive and some are featured modelling the sunglasses on the website.

"I pay them in product."

In the future, von Bitter would like to continue in business and expand Akoya Studios with other products.

"If it is successful, I'd love to continue it."

Photos by

Akoya Studios

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