There’s very few eyewear brands that have skyrocketed to success quite like VADA. The eyewear brand was born as an extension of Katie Caplener’s jewelry brand founded in Austin, Texas. After Alexis Sepkovic came onboard, the pair began to design and release small batch eyewear with cultural nods that feel simultaneously fresh and nostalgic. The two-woman design team has built a cult following by carving out a space inspired by unique cultural intersections; everything from Greek mythology to Japanese underground scenes of the late 80’s. Each piece is unique, but with a Texas twang.
We spoke with the designer pair regarding their newest project with designer, model, and Texas-native, Erin Wasson.
Katie, Alexis, and Erin - thanks for joining us. Let’s start out with the “Homecoming” frames you just released in collaboration with Erin Wasson. What was the inspiration for the frames?
Caplener - Texas was the main inspiration for The Homecoming campaign with Erin Wasson. Erin is a Texas native and I have been in Austin for 10 years. Also, Erin designs footwear for a Texas legacy brand, Lucchese, and the frame colors were inspired by her new collection. When I think of Western wear I think suede and big silver hardware, so we went with a blue suede lens, oil slick black acetate and polished silver detailing for our signature Kaubōi style.
Tell us more about the frames - their construction, materials, etc.
Caplener - For the Erin Wasson collaboration Kaubōi frame we used silver hardware for the first time. I love to mix silver and gold in my personal style, so this was a nice introduction to a new metal look for VADA eyewear. We also handcrafted a custom sterling silver chain in our ATX studio, with connectors that fit nicely in our VADA eyewear signature chain retainers.
How did you begin working with Erin on this project?
Caplener - I have been mutual friends with Erin for years through our Dallas and New York network. Our friends were always trying to get us together but we never seemed to be in the same place at the same time. When we finally met up in the San Jose courtyard, we formed an instant bond over our love for Texas, fine jewelry, and vintage cowboy boots over micheladas.
Erin, between Lucchese and VADA, it seems you’re embracing your roots with the projects you’re working on. Any other exciting projects upcoming with Texas-based designers?
Wasson - Texas is a hot bed of creatives. I’ve always known this and felt this. Presently I am continuing to collaborate with Texas photographers for my work with Lucchese. To tap into this community is endless.
What makes Texas, specifically Dallas, special to you?
Wasson - Diversity. The art scene. The community. It’s a big city with a small town mentality and big heart energy. People really support here in Dallas.
How involved were you in designing the collaboration frames with VADA?
Wasson - Admiring Katie’s vision for her company, I was lucky enough to have an organic exchange with her and begin our collaboration. I truly admire her as a woman and a creative mind.
Katie, what made you want to expand your business from designing jewelry to eyewear?
Caplener - Expanding into eyewear felt really natural for me, since I'm used to hand tooling and forming materials in a studio setting with our fine jewelry team of artisans. There are quite a few parallels in jewelry and eyewear production, surprisingly, so I was able to learn the manufacturing process quickly. I have been friends with Alexis Sepkovic, my Brand Director, for many years and we always talked about making eyewear for VADA. In 2018, I was ready to expand our product offering and drew on my archive of vintage eyewear for inspiration to begin the new voyage.
Do you find yourself designing to appeal to trends, or designing in a way that inspires you personally?
Sepkovic - We definitely pay attention to trends in the sense of shifting human interests and patterns; but we try to design eyewear that is really unique and therefore appeals to unique personalities. Our first frame, SIREN, is so different from anything on the market. We wanted VADA to stand out from the other shapes on the shelves and continued that journey into our latest releases - from shapes to material selection and the colors.
Any design inspirations that have inspired you and the work you do?
Caplener - I am constantly looking for new inspiration. A lot of that comes from travel but with covid putting an end to that I have been seeking inspiration through film and books. Lately, I’ve been watching the survival show, Alone, old David Lynch films on DVD, rewatching The Sopranos, and reading “All About Love” by Bell Hooks. I’m constantly trying to think tough but stay tender, balance is everything!
What’s next for VADA?
Sepkovic - VADA is always growing and morphing. I hope to have many more frame styles released by the end of this year so we can expand our offering and really cater to all face shapes. Follow us on @vadajewelry for a deeper look into our world of inspiration and see what we’re up to behind the scenes.
The "Homecoming" is available now at Black Optical. In-stores and online. Shop the frames below.