Tony winner Billy Porter is not only known for his Tony-winning performance in Kinky Boots, he’s also known for his style.
When you think of Porter, you conjure those signature chunky eyeglasses and the look he calls “geek chic,” but that wasn’t always his aesthetic. “Adam outfitted me in all those glasses,” Porter says of his husband, designer Adam Porter-Smith. “He was the person that created that branding for me, that branding from the Gap…the big chunky glasses.”
Though Porter-Smith has worked in the eyewear industry for over a decade, he now launches his first eyewear collection, co-designed with his business partner Christos Tsiplakos, with their company Native Ken. “There’s definitely an element of geek chic in it,” says Porter-Smith of the style. “It’s all vintage-inspired eyewear.” The two will celebrate the launch July 20 with industry friends at a private launch event at the Native Ken storefront in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.
Most importantly, theatre ties are strong ties, and Native Ken will offer free eye exams and 30 percent off of frames to members of Actors’ Equity Association on an ongoing basis.
“We just had the idea that the community is so large, and everybody needs glasses,” says Porter. “I remember being an actor and no one would take my insurance so I could get really great frames, so that’s where the idea came from.”
“We wanted to give back to artists and work with the artist community,” adds Porter-Smith.
And, just as Porter-Smith styled his now-husband to create a look and a brand, the designer says Native Ken is happy to do the same for other actors. “Native Ken: We’ll style you!” jokes Porter.
What’s more, Porter will design a small collection for Native Ken in the coming year, adding eyewear designer to his already mutli-hyphenate credits. “We’re still in the developmental process with that, but we’re definitely going to have three to five styles of sun and optical that will be Billy’s brand and that he’s going to help co-design.”
For your eye exam and eyewear needs, stop by the Native Ken storefront (188 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY) or visit NativeKen.com for more information.