For a sculptor, the statue awaits him inside the stone. For Pete Duncan, inside a block of wood waits your new pair of sunglasses.
October 3, 2016
From Forest to Fashion: Legacy Eyewear Carves Its Way into the Startup Scene
With a successful Kickstarter campaign and wood from all over Appalachia, this Wilmington entrepreneur handcrafts a growing sunglasses brand.
Cut from some of the most sought-after timber in the world—Georgia black cherry, Virginia black locust, Pennsylvania oak, New York maple and black walnut from western North Carolina—Legacy Eyewear frames offer not just a different style and feel, but an identity as rich and storied as their land of origin.
A Wilmingtonian for almost a decade, Duncan believes his business concept meshes with the town’s blend of natural and human history, where the laid back vibe of beach life meets a transplant population from every corner of the U.S.
It also falls in line with some big global trends in eyewear, an industry projected to jump from $90 billion to $140 billion in 2020. Sunglasses make up about 40 percent of those sales, and there’s some major innovation going on among startup players like Warby Parker and Sunski, who are trying to offer quality glasses at affordable prices.
Duncan is betting that sustainability will be the next frontier, and while he’s not alone in making frames out of wood—there are three such companies in the Carolinas—most of his competitors hail from the West Coast, Florida and New York.
“My wife brings so much stability to my work,” Duncan says. “As an engineer, she applies the scientific method to everything. She’ll say, ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you doing that? Test, check, repeat.’”
Duncan’s mom and two sisters are supportive too, and his dad is convinced he’ll be Legacy’s first C-suite hire.
And Duncan’s two-year-old daughter, like her father, has already begun work as a shophand, though this mostly involves stealing tools and hiding them. Duncan says she’s always the best excuse for a work break. But she just might also be the next artisan down the line.