Water Warrior Green. Ocean Blue. Secret Red. These are the latest eyeglass frame colors available at a growing local business, thanks to the Genusee Artist Collaboration. The company, Genusee Eyewear, produces the first circular economy eyewear brand that upcycles one-use plastic water bottles into eyeglass frames and sunglasses. Founded by Ali Rose VanOverbeke, the kick-starter company was officially launched in 2018 and is located in Downtown Flint’s Ferris Wheel building.
According to VanOverbeke, Genusee Artist Collaboration came about a few months ago, when they began looking to collaborate with local artists who align with the company’s commitment to making long-term social and environmental impacts on Flint. “Our first collaboration was in November (2019) with Amanda Edwards, a local artist and part of the assembly team at Genusee,” she explains. Amanda’s color, Water Warrior Green, was inspired by the “Women Wading in Water” series she created as a part of the collaboration. Works from the series are also featured on packaging, tote bags, bookmarks, posters and pens. “The frame color is exclusive, inspired by Amanda’s Art,” VanOverbeke adds.
“I left a good job to do something more impactful that had more meaning – and I have no regrets.”
Ali Rose VanOverbeke
In February, the featured works are by Amber Vittoria, an artist from New York whose work inspired the eyeglass frame color, Ocean Blue. Also this month, Genusee is collaborating with Photographer James Adams from Detroit. His color, Secret Red, is related to a short film he developed and designed.
Genusee Eyewear is continuing to grow and they are now in the process of structuring a board of directors. Working with the MADE Institute, the company helps create jobs in the Flint community for individuals coming out of incarceration, the structurally unemployable and individuals with disabilities. One percent of the company’s profits is donated to the Community Fund of Greater Flint to help support children’s health and education.
VanOverbeke grew up in Detroit and was a very successful fashion designer and stylist in New York for many years. She attended Parsons School of Design, a private art and design college in New York. “I took time off from my job and moved back with my family in Michigan,” she shares. While back in Detroit, VanOverbeke volunteered for the Red Cross, which brought her to Flint during the Water Crisis. Seeing all of the plastic water bottles used during the crisis sparked her idea of making eyeglasses from the recycled containers.
“I fell in love with the Flint community,” VanOverbeke remembers, “and I knew I had the skills to make an impact in my home state. I left a good job to do something more impactful that had more meaning – and I have no regrets. It’s the best decision I have ever made. ”
Water Warrior Green, was inspired by the “Women Wading in Water” series created by Amanda Edwards as a part of the collaboration.