If you we’ve paying attention, you’ve probably seen them flash across your timelines, all the flyest girls sporting barely tinted, very sexy frameless shades marked by a small diamond heart in the left lens, a throwback to the same Chloe sunglasses ones that scorched through New York’s hoods in the early aughts.
Except the 2.0 version is via Shanka aka Crystal Shankab, a one-woman creative, who used her hustle acumen and connects (with some advice from boyfriend and established Uptown plug, 40 OZ Van) to build a social media sensation around the sunglasses, causing them to evaporate upon arrival.
We chatted with Shanka to see what inspired the launch and what we can expect next from her upcoming efforts as an entrepreneur and designer.
All images by Mauricio Jorquera.
Snobette: Where is the name Shanka from?
Shanka: “It’s just a cute nickname that was given to me by my boyfriend a while back.”
Snobette: Where are you from?
Shanka: “I’m from the Bronx, a Puerto Rican from the Bronx.
Snobette: How do you feel your Bronx upbringing has shaped you?
Shanka: “My street smarts, even the glasses are a rendition of Chloe glasses that were popular in the hood so I felt like I could relate to that product. And just being a Latina mami from the Bronx, the J-Lo connection, and a lot of style right now is hood fashion and that’s something that’s in me.”
Snobette: Tell me about starting the sunglass line.
Shanka: “Originally I had idea an idea to come out with some tote bags, about a year ago, but I made a beginner’s mistake with production and when I picked them up they were a disaster.”
Snobette: What went wrong?
Shanka: “It was related to the graphics. I didn’t check along the way and I just assumed they would know. As I’ve learned since, you have to explain to people like they’re kindergartners.”
Snobette: Lol, sometimes creative people don’t realize how creative they are and not everyone can see what you’re seeing.
Shanka: “It was a learning experience.”
Snobette: Was part of the process learning you had to inhabit a bossier part of yourself?
Shanka: “You do need to be more stern in how you speak and present yourself. Nobody likes too nice unfortunately.”
Snobette: What did you do with the tote bags?
Shanka: “I threw them right away.”
Snobette: What came next?
Shanka: “My boyfriend owns a label [40 OZ] and I went to him for advice, and he suggested going with something in accessories to test the waters. And that’s when the idea for the glasses popped up.”
Snobette: Do you remember seeing the Chloe glasses growing up?
Shanka: Oh definitely. There were people rocking original and also bootleg copies of originals with a diamond in the corner.
Snobette: When were they at their height?
Shanka: They came out in 1999, but they took off in the early 2000s and were at their height in 2001. I had a pair, the blue ones.
Snobette: When was the first drop for the sunglasses?
Shanka: “My first launch was October 3rd, and I dropped all six colors off the bat.
Snobette: The lookbook images are great.
Shanka: I didn’t want to [the images to be] just eyewear, I wanted all the girls in jeans and sneakers wearing the glasses to give an over all vibe.
Snobette: Who styled your lookbook?
Shanka: I didn’t have a stylist or money for one, but I reached out to Aaliyah Noel, someone I follow on Instagram, whose look I really liked. It was her first styling job.
Snobette: What’s your retail set up?
Shanka: “It’s an ecommerce store on Shopify. Since it was my first drop I didn’t want to go crazy. I didn’t think I would sell much. I wanted to try something without breaking my neck.”
Snobette: You launched and what happened?
Shanka: “I got so much more love than I expected. ‘Oh my god I used to own a pair!” People lost their minds.”
Snobette: How did you build up hype for the launch?
Shanka: “I’d see an influencer on the street and give them a pair. At an event, I’d walk up to girls I knew had followers, introduce myself and give them a pair.”
Snobette: That’s very cool, real street style marketing.
Shanka: “It’s much better to connect on a person-to-person basis. A lot of times, people with big followings won’t even respond to DMs.”
Snobette: When is your next drop?
Shanka: “My next drop should be in December, a tee shirt. I think I’ll save the eyewear for next spring/summer. I want to bring something that will bring you back to a good place.”
Snobette: Where are you with this brand six months from now?
Shanka: “Six months from now, I can’t even travel that far ahead. I’ve been winging it. There is no set plan. There isn’t anything written down. Fashion changes so fast. You find something and have to get it out quick before someone else snatches your idea. Copying is part of the game.”