Inside Look: Q & A with District Vision Co-Founders Max Vallot and Tom Daly
By Mario Fraioli
I wanted to satisfy some of my curiosities about the morning shakeout’s current partner, District Vision, so I threw a few questions to co-founders Max Vallot and Tom Daly, which they were happy to answer for me. You can check out that exchange below.
DV’s sunglasses cost more than many of the other options available to runners today. They’re handmade in Japan. They look for stylish than sporty. What else sets them apart from everything else that’s available on the market?
Our sports eyewear system is the only one entirely engineered and produced in Japan. The specific region our factory is located in is globally renowned for specialized metal work and intricate product engineering. What makes our frames unique is the combination of nylon, rubber and beta titanium we use to create the adjustability features—such as the nose pad and temple tips—for an optimal performance fit. Our lenses are designed to meet the various athletic conditions a runner comes across in training—day, night, fog, rain, sunshine, transitional light, etc. They are the only ones with therapeutic qualities designed to reduce eye strain and calm the nervous system.
You guys are both from Europe and spent most of your professional careers working in the fashion industry. How did the two of you go from that life to launching a startup based in New York City that revolves around selling running sunglasses and promoting the benefits of meditation?
It was a natural progression. We were initially attracted to fashion because we wanted to learn about branding from some of the best people. But after a while we felt restricted in the industry and didn’t feel we were adding much to people’s lives. At the same time, Tom discovered the downtown running scene and I (Max) found meditation. District Vision was launched in response to this, making the best tools for runners and active souls, and bringing the worlds of sports and mindfulness closer together through product, research and programming.
Aside from developing and selling sunglasses, DV is committed to making meditation available to more runners. Why do you feel this is important part of your company’s vision and how has/is DV gone/going about educating runners about the relationship between mindfulness and movement?
It started as a simple experiment between us and Knox Robinson. We noticed people’s training plans in running were getting incredibly complex and the idea of marginal gains was reaching a new peak through innovation in shoes, fueling, etc. At the same time, no one was giving much consideration to the mind-body dynamic in more depth, specifically as it relates to anatomical awareness, breath capacity, injury prevention and recovery. Our program is not just about quieting the mind before big races. Instead, we want to cultivate a holistic understanding of these factors and ingrain them in athlete’s training plans. This has now been going on for two years, with workshops at most major races and in collaboration with the Black Roses in NYC.
What is the connection—if there is one—between performance eyewear and meditation?
Most people forget that eyewear is a medical device. First and foremost, our frames are tools designed to protect the athlete’s eyes through an adjustable, ultra-lightweight construction and therapeutic-grade lenses. The meditation program is therapy for mind, body and soul, as well as a way of giving back to the community of runners that continue to inspire us.
Currently DV makes and sells running sunglasses, but you’ve kept the door open for other products by saying that you research and develop “tools” for runners. Can you give me any insight as to what some of those tools might be and how you go about deciding whether or not a product category is worth pursuing?
We will continue to work on the type of tools we feel there is a need for. Next up is a compression sock system made in Germany and a trail running shoe collaboration with Salomon.