Walmart debuts Karün sustainable eyewear collection

Karün is Walmart’s first eyewear line, featuring 18 styles made from traceable recycled materials, including fishing nets, metals and other plastics.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
Levy
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Walmart is launching Karün, the retailer’s first eyewear brand made from traceable recycled materials, including fishing nets, metals and other plastics to create eyewear.

The line features 18 styles—including aviator, round, rectangle and square frames—and range in price from $114 to $132. The glasses will be available at 1,400 Walmart Vision Center locations nationwide. 

Drug Store News sat down with Ericka Thumbutu, merchandising director of optical for Walmart Vision Centers, and Thomas Kimber, the founder and CEO of Karün, to learn what makes this collection a sustainable choice and how it is emblematic of how Walmart is working with suppliers on embedding circularity across its product categories while prioritizing quality, durability and sustainability. 

[Read more: Pharmacy Innovator of the Year 2021: Walmart connects with communities]

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Drug Store News: Describe Karün’s mission and the history of the brand. 

Thomas Kimber: Karün, which is based in Puerto Varas and has offices around the world, is a B Corp certification company. We’ve been working for many years in building the Karün regeneration model, where we create very high quality products in eyewear using materials that are contaminating our planet, which when recovered and used are restoring our natural ecosystems. We also create an economic incentive in communities because we purchase these materials from people who collect them. 

At Karün, our mission is to create eyewear that helps protect nature. Through our Karün Traceability System, we enable customers to learn where their eyewear materials were collected, how far they traveled and where they were produced.

DSN: What attracted you to this collection and what have you learned about customers’ desire for sustainable products?

Ericka Thumbutu: The collection is fashionable and colorful, but the most important thing is that it is high quality and durable. We have 18 total pieces in the collection, split between men’s and women’s. We worked together to make sure we are providing a high quality, fashionable but fun collection to tap into what we know our customers are looking for at prices between $114 and $132. We know that 78% of the U.S. population say they want to live a more sustainable lifestyle. At Walmart, sustainability has been at the core of our mission for many years. It was only fitting that I have been for years looking for a sustainable eyewear brand that hits on quality that our customers deserve, that it is fashionable so they feel good when they’re wearing it and at a price they can afford. 

When I came across the Karün team, it was a natural fit. Once we got to know each other and I got to understand their mission to make frames that make people feel good but also renewing people while also renewing the planet. It’s a win win for us.

DSN: Describe what makes Karün sustainable?

Kimber: One of the most valuable things is to have recycled, traceable materials. One thing is to claim a product is recyclable, and another is for the consumer be able to scan the QR code on our products and access the traceability system which is built over block chain so they will know exactly who, when and where each part of the material is sourced from. 

For example, an old fishing net that was lying on the beach, contaminating the environment, and is harmful for the fish, whales and dolphins that was collected and sold to us by someone that doesn’t normally have the opportunities that people in cities have. Then you can see the journey that material took to get to the factory, to be processed and shipped to the store for the customer. 

[Related: Walmart, Elton John AIDS Foundation partner to help end HIV/AIDS epidemic]

DSN: How are you also educating customers about the sustainability of the collection? 

Thumbutu: Our customers will be able to see the materials that the frames are made of on display in our stores. We worked with the Karün team to develop a nice display that’s minimal, but which also drives home the point with our customer, that this fishing net, or this piece of wire, was found in an ocean by someone in Patagonia and has been turned into the frame you’re wearing. It brings it all together. Additionally, the QR code is embedded on the eyeglass frame case, which is leather made from recycled materials. When the customer opens the case, the see the QR code, and they can scan it and it takes them on their frame journey. One of the reasons it was important to also display the materials in store with the frame is that we understand not everyone is QR savvy. Putting materials on display right under the frames with a piece of the story that’s easy to read was to help breach that technology gap.

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DSN: Explain the concept of Walmart’s mission to be a regenerative business?

Thumbutu: For years our mission around sustainability has been working with our suppliers to embrace and close the reduce, reuse, recycle loop across our entire company and all of our products. It is our mission as a company to continue to do that and figuring out where that works across different categories and different products.

This collection is emblematic of how Walmart is working with suppliers on embedding circularity across our product categories while prioritizing quality, durability and sustainability. Karün’s efforts are part of our broader goal to become a regenerative company – one that helps renew people and the planet through our business.

At Walmart it is really our mission to meet our customer where they are and when that comes to eyewear, specifically the optical division, it’s our mission to provide high quality service with quality products that are fashionable at prices that are our patients can afford, with the quality they deserve.  With over 1,000 frames in our vision center that are under $150 we are really about making sure that, ‘save money, live better” is not just a tagline for Walmart, but who we are at the core. Live better with offering more products that are sustainable and, with these traceable, recyclable products it’s our mission and it comes across throughout the store. 

In vision we want people to know we’re committed. We’ve been committed by the Walmart of the old, but we have a little bit of a new lease. We’re offering what our customers want. They speak and we’re listening.

DSN: Where did you get your inspiration from for the collection and your passion for sustainability?

Kimber:  Karün means to be nature. I grew up with a mother who is a photographer going to pristine places in the world, which this is. That gave me a strong connection to a natural environment. I always wanted to inspire as many people as possible to take care of our planet. When we met Ericka and the team at Walmart, you realize they have a heart and passion. 

We’re coming together. We need to inspire the world and prove that solutions need to be collaborative and reach a wider audience so we can start to shift the narrative and remember we are capable of turning things around and living a better world. Walmart stands for that.

Thumbutu: Everybody at Karün is genuine. We have a shared passion for making the world a better place. Thomas thinks because he's a small company you wouldn't think a major retailer would be interested in such an idea. As long as you have a passion for what you’re doing, there’s always going to be a way. When you meet people, stars align and your goals align, and great things can happen. At Walmart, we are, and I am, very passionate about eyewear and making people feel good. When you look good, you feel good and when you feel good you do good.

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