Eyewear could change how you see Detroit blight

There is no easy answer to the question regarding what should be done with Detroit's abandoned homes. However, an Eastern Market company has a solution that could reflect Detroit's possibly bright future. Homes Eyewear has set out to make the city a little more stylish, and do their part in cleaning it up by repurposing select woods from neglected homes for sunglasses. All of the wood that Homes uses is harvested from vacant houses by Reclaim Detroit, who deconstructs houses and catalogs the materials.

Achille Bianchi is the man behind Homes Eyewear, fulfilling every task from selecting wood veneers to the retail end of things. OmniCorpDetroit, the hackerspace creative collective in Eastern Market, is home to the fledgling company and also serves as the store front. “Sunglasses may not be the most meaningful product or object, but they're made in Detroit and it's a step in the right direction, in my opinion," Bianchi says. "I'm also developing a few other products I'd like to make from reclaimed wood, tires and boats. I think it just helps the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mentality, and contributes to a sustainable circle of production in Detroit.”

A lot of work goes into prepping the wood to be cut and shaped into frames. Bianchi goes through each piece to remove nails, paint or anything else detrimental to their production (it is a bit strange to think that your wooden sunglasses could have had family portraits nailed to them). In order to produce more durable eyewear, Bianchi uses only salvaged hardwoods like maple or beech, which are difficult to come by as most of the blighted homes were built with softer woods like Douglas fir and pine.

Bianchi currently offers frames similar to the wayfarer style and are developing their unique spin on the classic aviators. A pair of Homes made from sustainably harvested lumber starts at $148, whereas a pair made from reclaimed wood goes for $188.

Every pair is handmade and one-of-a-kind, and since they are made of wood thus require a lot more maintenance than your typical pair of plastic or metal-framed spectacles. Bianchi recommends that you apply beeswax or walnut oil every four to six months to prevent the wood from drying out. It is also advised that you keep your Homes from exposure to extreme weather (which seems nearly impossible in Michigan) to prevent degradation.

Lately, consumer watchdogs have been hyper-vigilant, questioning just how local “local” companies really are. ”Bottom line, I'm trying to make a sustainable product from something that's going to be otherwise put to waste," Bianchi says. "I pay for the wood and services, which I think contribute to keeping people employed. It's small-scale at the moment, so I don't know just how much I contribute, but I'd like to think it helps.”

Contrary to being another opportunist who swoops in and exploits Detroit’s situation for some twisted, personal gain, only to leave behind a cloud of smoke in the shape of a person, Bianchi restores confidence in the ideal of what a local business owner should be. “I live in this city and have for a long time. I see how business can affect the physical and psychological landscape of the city, and its impact can be really profound. I aim to make conscientious and thoughtful decisions, both in personal and professional transactions and endeavors that positively affect people living here, and will continue to do so for as long as I live and operate here.”

Homes does not currently offer prescription lenses, so the visually impaired are shit out of luck for the time being. Each pair of sunglasses undergoes a thorough inspection to make sure that whoever wears them won’t get a splinter in their face and obviously, the grain and color will vary because, you know, they’re made of wood.