Ali Mehrdad and Stefan Foster, co-founders of one of the most popular sunglasses brand of the moment, Roberi & Fraud, make starting your own accessories business from scratch look easy. In less than a year with no design experience, they’ve somehow not only conceived of and manufactured an entire, on-trend collection—most of which has already sold out—but also had the world’s biggest supermodels and style influencers, from Bella and Gigi Hadid to Kendall Jenner, wear their products. And not just wear them once, but all the time, in countless paparazzi photos, and on Instagram.
How did they do it?
“The designs were literally made in 15 minutes,” said Mehrdad over the phone from his home base in Dubai this summer. For inspiration, he and Foster both simply looked to the designer sunglasses their parents wore in the ’90s, from small Matrix-esque frames to glamorous cat-eyes, and voila, they had their styles. Then they gave them old-school names like Betty and Doris, thought of an expensive-sounding brand name, and hit the ground running. “Every style you can think of has already been done,” added Mehrdad matter-of-factly. “It’s just a matter how of how you market it.”
And marketing is exactly what this duo knows how to do. Mehrdad and Foster first met in grade school, and would later go on to co-found the UAE-based consulting agency, Front Row Mode after realizing that the rest of the world didn’t know how to tap Middle Eastern consumers, which, as Mehrdad says, is “where the money’s at.” Their clients included brands like Burberry and The Row, as well as department stores Bergdorf Goodman and Harvey Nichols.
“We helped a lot of companies make a lot of money,” said Mehrdad. “So, we got to a point where we were like, ‘Why don’t we create our own brand?’ We looked at the market, and the whole industry is saturated with brands popping up. But then we realized that the only markets that aren’t saturated are shoes and eyewear. Shoes weren’t for us, so we went with eyewear.”
Which Celebrity Has Worn the Tiniest Sunglasses of Them All?
Kendall Jenner is seen on September 08, 2017 in New York City. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Christina Aguilera poses for a photo in the Mercedes garage before the Azerbaijan Formula One Grand Prix at Baku City Circuit on April 29, 2018 in Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
FKA Twigs in a bright green jacket is seen out in Soho on March 03, 2017 in New York, NY. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Vanessa Hudgens arrives at Knott’s Scary Farm and Instagram’s Celebrity Night held at Knott’s Berry Farm on September 29, 2017 in Buena Park, California. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Rita Ora seen out and about in Manhattan on April 9, 2018 in New York City. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Beyonce attends The 67th NBA All-Star Game: Team LeBron Vs. Team Stephen at Staples Center on February 18, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Gigi Hadid seen on the streets of Manhattan on June 20, 2018 in New York City. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Kaia Gerber seen after the Alberta Feretti show during Milan Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2018/19 on February 21, 2018 in Milan, Italy. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Lady Gaga is seen in Greenwich Village on June 26, 2018 in New York City. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Selena Gomez is seen arriving at Haneda Airport on August 1, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Bella Hadid is seen on April 30, 2017 in New York City wearing an “under-boob” crop top and Matrix sunglasses.
Rihanna attends the “Okja” screening during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival wearing white sunglasses by Andy Wolf Eyewear.
Suki Waterhouse poses for an Instagram selfie wearing Matrix sunglasses and a black leather beret.
Singer Kim Petras during the Life Ball 2018 at City Hall on June 2, 2018 in Vienna, Austria. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Kourtney Kardashian is seen in NoHo on June 5, 2018 in New York City. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Actress Millie Bobby Brown performs on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on October 31, 2017. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Elsa Hosk poses for an Instagram selfie wearing Matrix sunglasses, a chocker, and flaunting a messy summer hairdo.
DJ twins Simi and Haze Khadra pose with musical artist Kehlani wearing Matrix sunglasses while at an event in Los Angeles.
Model Doutzen Kroes is spotted wearing Matrix sunglasses with a gown during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at on May 23, 2017 in France. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Amelia Gray Hamlin wears Matrix sunglasses while drinking coffee outside in California wearing a long-sleeve graphic t-shirt and short shorts. Photo courtesy of Instagram.
It’s as simple as that: no grueling internships, no CFDA Awards, no fashion week presentations…yet. Rather, Mehrdad and Foster came into the industry looking to fill a hole, give people what they wanted, and quickly, before they changed their minds. Of course, they also wanted make some money along the way. It’s arguably the raison d’etre for every fashion brand ever, just with less bells and whistles. And in 2017, this hyper-focused, market-driven, trend-savvy strategy is the least transparent, but perhaps most successful path.
Good PR contacts and a popular Instagram account also helps. Mehrdad and Stefan agree that accessories like sunglasses are more likely to be shared on Instagram thanks to selfie culture, and instantly purchased because of their lower price-point. In addition to American celebrities like Bella Hadid sharing their products, (she hit it off with the duo after visiting Dubai this year), all it took was one Bollywood star like Sonam Kapoor to tag Roberi & Fraud on Instagram for her 10 million followers to see, and an entirely new international market suddenly popped up.
Today, Mehrdad and Stefan find people tagging Roberi & Fraud on Instagram, even when it’s not their sunglasses being featured—the modern era’s sincerest form of flattery.
Here Are the Most Instagram-worthy New Sunglasses to Buy For Summer
Oliver Peoples recently launched their gender neutral Cary Grant style inspired by the 1959 Hollywood classic North by Northwest.
Buy Now: Oliver Peoples, teal acetate frames with grey lenses, $415. saksfifthavenue.com
There is something effortlessly cool about Celine’s sleek metal frame sunglasses. The aviators feature mirrored lenses and two silver bridges.
Buy Now: Celine, metal frame sunglasses, $460, celine.com
Make a statement with a pop of canary yellow.
Buy Now: Carolina Lemke, round yellow sunglasses, $75, carolinalemke.com
French designer Alexandre Vauthier has once again teamed up with Alain Mkili to create a futuristic take on a slim cateye.
Buy Now: Alain Mikli, black triangular sunglasses, $455, barneys.com
Los Angeles based brand Jacques Marie Mage and actress Kate Bosworth designed these frames by drawing inspiration from old Hollywood and the iconic Marylin Monroe. The round navy frames are complemented with a subtle cat eye silhouette.
Buy Now: Jacques Marie Mage, blue acetate frame and lenses, $625, jacquesmariemage.com
In 2015 indonesian model and environmental activist, Fahrani Empei, launched Pawaka, an innovative eyewear label inspired by Indonesian heritage and modernity. These geometric sunglasses stand out with a half moon shaped frames in purple acetate.
Buy Now: Pawaka, half moon sunglasses, $410, modaoperandi.com
These sheer lenses are an easy everyday wear, even on an overcast day.
Buy Now: Stella Mcartney, white metal aviator, $215. modaoperandi.com
Mykita and Maison Margiela collaborated to create an elevated take on the matrix sunglasses trend.
Buy Now: Mykita, black metal sunglasses, $447, farfetch.com
Jimmy Choo’s debuts a unique take on a dramatic cat eye.
Buy Now: Jimmy Choo, cat eye sunglasses with grey lenses, $235, jimmychoo.com
Parisian designer Ahlem Manai-Plat names each pair of frames after a neighborhood in Paris. The Champ De Mars black frame are sleek yet classic and the perfect everyday shades.
Buy Now: Ahlem, black acetate frames, $440, Ahlem.com
Handcrafted in Italy, Saint Laurent’s cateye lenses come in a bold red. For the perfect off duty look, wear them with your favorite denim and a basic white tee. Buy Now: Saint Laurent, red cateye sunglasses, $420, bergdorfgoodman.com
Inspired by the sixties, Miu Miu created a round tortoise frame with brown gradient lenses. These sunglasses are elegant with a vintage touch. Buy Now: Miu Miu, round tortoise sunglasses, $260, mythersea.com
Garrett Leight’s 80’s inspired metal framed sunglasses are an accessory worth investing in this season. The rose gold lenses add a high fashion feel to any look.
Buy Now: Garrett Leight, rose gold metal frames, $365, shopbop.com
Lowercase’s modern sunglasses have been crafted in Brooklyn from hand polished acetate. The square black frames with basil colored lenses are perfect for weekend city strolls.
Buy Now: Lowercase, hand polished frames with basil colored lenses, $350, barneys.com
Spotted on the duchess herself, Megan Markle loves Illestevia’s amber shades. The round cateye and stainless steel arms create a lovely femme look.
Buy Now: Illesteva, round amber sunglasses, $240, illesteva.com
Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner Are Performance Artists With a Sense of Humor