Sunglass brand shuns high price, attracts celebrities

- Glasses shouldn't cost $700. For Daniel Silberman, founder and CEO of luxury eyewear brand Illesteva, it was that simple. Good sunglasses shouldn't be so expensive. He was looking for a pair in 2009 and couldn't find anything, so he launched his own brand in New York City.

Silberman says it was a tough time to start a business because of the recession, and just about everybody told him not to do it, but he wouldn't listen. He says his biggest advantage in 2009 was that he didn't know any better and launched anyway.

Illesteva started with five frames in four different colors. The first pair, the Leonard, is still one of Illesteva's most popular frames. It retails for $177. All Illesteva glasses are handmade in Italy.

Silberman found a factory in Verona that gave him a shot and made six samples. He brought those frames to Miami, shot a look-book and got started. The company has been different from the start. Instead of using traditional models, Silberman's first look-book featured old Cuban domino players.

Illesteva launched with just $5,000, and it has tried to save money along the way. Instead of taking on investors, Silberman says he has financed the company's growth with its own cash flow. It has been profitable since year two.

Today, Illesteva has grown to 50 employees and has a host of celebrity customers, including Beyoncé, Rihanna, Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Alba, Karlie Kloss and Kendall Jenner. Even first daughter Sasha Obama is a fan.

Illesteva has done collaborations with J.Crew, designer Zac Posen, and legendary musician Lou Reed before he died.

The brand even offers "design your own" glasses for just $10 more. Silberman says you can pick your front, pick any lens you want, and pick your temple, and you'll be the only one in New York to have that particular pair of glasses.

In November Illesteva launched direct-to-consumer eyeglasses for $165, selling out the first order of 3,000 pairs in just one week.

Illesteva's success is something Silberman may never get used to. He says he is still shocked every time he sees someone wearing Illesteva on the street and calls it the best feeling in the world.

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