Ali Evans was just 16 years old when, he says, he was told in a dream that he was created to invent. Inspired, he wrote down an idea to create a futuristic pair of glasses. He sat on the idea for five years until 2014 when, at age 21, he officially launched his luxury eyewear brand, now known as Godnii, after meeting his current business partner and Godnii’s president, Keri Roberts. After another six years of research, trial and error, prayer, and creating one-of-a-kind, handcrafted frames, Evans’ vision came into sharp focus. He released his first two collections at the end of 2020.
A resident of the nonprofit and co-working space Ponyride, Godnii provides made-to-order frames, all produced in Detroit and handmade by Evans. Sustainable sourcing and production are of top priority. Godnii reflects influences from haute couture and Japanese street fashion, which Evans says comes from the Japanese art his grandmother had around her home.
The 10 and 50 collections feature limited batches of sleek, two-toned frames in circular and rectangular shapes, available in clear and tinted lenses that come in shades of gray, yellow, red, and blue. Customers can then go have prescriptions added to their lenses. For those who don’t need frames but are fans of the brand’s message, the Essentials Collection features unisex apparel bearing the brand name, all fair-trade certified.
Godnii (pronounced like “God-in-eye”) means “God’s vision,” Evans says. While the name can be interpreted in various ways — “God-in-I,” “God-and-I,” and “God-in-eye,” — Evans says these interpretations all represent “a call out of religion” and stepping “into God’s highest expression of love.” “Immediately, I could feel that this idea was for the world; it wasn’t just for me,” Evans says.
Godnii plans to release a frame early this year made with salvaged wood from the old library in Cass Technical High School. The brand is also working on partnerships with local eyewear shops, and Evans hopes to release more clothing and accessories. “We’ve grown tremendously. I think last year was the year that kind of spearheaded us,” Roberts says of Godnii’s receipt of more than $100,000 from the federal COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans program. “The unforeseen happened, but it also [enabled] us to to take off with our brand and really do what Ali had envisioned seven years ago.”