August 29th, 2011 / posted by paularath

"Audrey" sunglasses by Martin & MacArthur.

While Martin & MacArthur is best known for its exquisite koa furniture, since 2008 it has taken a decidedly different direction. In addition to the furniture, it is now creating fashion accessories from koa and other Hawaii woods. It’s all about wearable wood.

The latest accessories to be introduced are sunglasses; arguably the first koa sunglasses to ever be created.

Michael Tam, CEO of Martin & MacArthur, is the creative force driving the company in this new direction. To create the wood sunglasses, he has partnered with Chris Erven, an L.A.-based optometrist, and his family-owned business. Tam and Erven share a vision of eco-friendly sunglasses using only wood and wood composites for everything but the hinges, which are Swiss, and of course the lenses. 

No trees are cut down to make these sunglasses. Wood for the glasses, and all other Martin & MacArthur accessories, comes from koa harvested from dead trees. In a partnership with Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, the company is doing everything it can to preserve and reforest Big Island koa. (More about that in a future blog.)

The lenses are glare resistant (polarized) and offer 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. They can also be provided with prescription lenses within two weeks.

There are five different styles and each looks quite different due to the unique appearance of the grains and shades of the woods. They have fun, inspirational names such as Dylan (for poet Dylan Thomas), Fellini (for the film director) and Audrey (Hepburn, of course).

This style is named after Italian director Federico Fellini.

Some of the frames are made of rosewood, a wood that lends its color beautifully to many skin tones.

For those who prefer to be more inconspicuous, there are clear fronts with wood only on the sides, though I can’t imagine choosing that option with all those beautiful woods to frame the face.

Martin & MacArthur is keeping the woodworking labor here in the Islands. All the wood frames are precut locally then sent to L.A. to be assembled with the lenses.

Prices for the wood sunglasses are $299-$349.


A mix of woods creates a work of art.

Another practical, everyday accessory that Martin & MacArthur is offering now are watches for men and women.

“Koa can be a part of your everyday lifestyle, worn on your person,” Tam said as he showed me his own beatiful koa watch. “Human oils are like furniture polish so it gets better and more brilliant with wearing. It’s wearable wood and it’s good for the wearer and the wood.”

The watches are entirely wood except, of course, for the faces and movement, which are made by Citizen Corportion.

There are 40 styles of watches in the collection. Designs vary according to the wood colors and grains and the artistry that goes into mixing and matching them. There are no stains or dyes used, allowing the beauty of the natural wood to shine.

Prices for the watches range from $119 – $260.

Rosalie's small hibiscus shoulder bag.


Martin & MacArthur recently introduced handbags by Kauai designer Rosalie Kaohelaulii as an addition to the accessories collection. The bags are made of tropical prints with a vintage vibe she sources from all over the world. They come in several styles: shoulder bag, large zippered tote and convertible bag to backpack.

Rosalie's medium Lehua bag.

When I asked Tam if he plans to introduce a line of wood handbags (perhaps like the ones we all carried in the late 60s?) he smiled coyly and said, “Just wait and see. Watch for the holiday collection.”

These accessories are sold at each of the Martin & MacArthur stores, including Ala Moana, Ward Centre, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Outrigger Reef, all five neighbor island stores and online at

– Paula Rath

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August 29th, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Can’t wait to see the wood purses. My friend has one (not sure who made it) but it’s a real show-stopper when she carries it.

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