CEO & Designer – Sama Eyewear
Founder – The Sam Vance Foundation
Sheila Vance is a legendary designer, successful businesswoman and true humanitarian. Whether changing the world through her inspired eyewear designs, innovative business practices or extensive philanthropic efforts, Vance works tirelessly to make the world a better and more beautiful place.
Named by Interview magazine as one of the “Most Noble Crusaders of the Modern Era,” Vance’s life was turned upside-down when she lost her only son, Sam, a nineteen-year-old college freshman, to the scourge of heroin. Determined to turn her personal tragedy into a positive force for change, Vance took action. Only months after her son’s death, Vance founded the Sam Vance Foundation with a mission to help free adolescents and teens from the shackles of drug abuse.
A longtime philanthropist, Vance knew that establishing a charity and funding a charity were two different things. “The primary concern of most companies is making money. They get into charity and develop a social conscience, if at all, as an afterthought…but Sama Eyewear is different. I founded the Sam Vance Foundation first, then I created Sama Eyewear as way to fund the foundation.”
From the outset, Vance was determined to create a business culture that would seamlessly integrate her personal and professional lives. An internationally renowned designer and eyewear industry pioneer for over twenty years, Vance’s vision for Sama Eyewear required a completely new approach to business and design. “I began my journey by naming the Company Sama, an ancient term meaning ‘…no beginning and no end’ that personifies my underlying philosophy of life and set the tone for everything that followed.”
Determined to make a significant impact as quickly as possible, Vance took her “fashion with a cause” message to the world’s most powerful purveyors of youth-oriented culture: the fashion and entertainment industries. “Heroin chic was anything but chic,” says Vance, “the fact that the fashion and entertainment industries were glamorizing drug use was unacceptable and needed to be changed.” Vance’s focus on style over substance (abuse, that is!) was ultimately embraced by tastemakers and trendsetters in the fashion, film and music industries, and the Sama Eyewear legend was born!
The international optical industry and fashionistas alike declared Sama Eyewear’s launch to be nothing short of extraordinary. Elegant designs, luxurious materials and revolutionary manufacturing techniques quickly propelled the company to the forefront of the hyper-competitive eyewear industry. Never one to rest on her laurels, Vance immediately began work on a project that would forever change the luxury eyewear industry: the 1001 Nights collection.
The 1001 Nights collection was the first to feature precious stones set in pure titanium and was also the first specifically created to benefit charity. The collection was inspired by the tale of Scheherazade, a story about a beautiful, young woman who must rely on her courage and creativity to survive an almost impossible situation. “In many ways the fable of Scheherazade reflects my own creative journey,” say Vance,“ and it serves as a wonderful source of hope during difficult times.”
Embracing fresh creative challenges, each of Vance’s collections serves a specific fashion purpose: “Sama introduced fashion etiquette to luxury eyewear; 1001 Nights and Visionnaires were about hope, inspiration and giving; Kenta brought a strong, masculine sensibility to men’s luxury eyewear; Go and Line3 infused the Sama essence into extremely modern styles; Loree Rodkin Eye Couture by Sama created a new class of jewelry; Badgley Mischka Eyewear resurrected glamour and the “Golden Age of Hollywood”; Sahara blended old-world artistry and craftsmanship with modern designs, materials and technology; Incognito re-interpreted classic designs in a familiar yet contemporary way; and, L’Agence by Sama is a French inspired eyewear wardrobe for today’s modern woman.
When asked about her next project, Vance smiles and says, "I could tell you, but it would spoil the surprise!"