Sizzlin’ Sunglasses

Caito Maia of Chilli Beans talks eyewear and rock icons

“Music is everything at Chilli Beans.” Caito Maia of the Brazilian sunglasses mega-brand brings the kind of creative energy to his work that is rarely found in business. It’s a passion forged from his years as a musician. Before moving into retail full time, he played with his band, Las Ticas Tienen Fuego, and music is an integral part of the Chilli Beans culture: “Lots of my employees play instruments or make other kinds of art. We’ve incorporated the music lifestyle into our daily routine.” It’s a dynamic approach that shows in the fresh and funky attitude of the brand’s eyewear, and it makes for a brilliantly imaginative partnership with Swarovski. Caito Maia tells us what’s new, talks rock icons, and explains why failure can be a good thing…

The collection with Swarovski is one of the most important we’ve launched: there are about eighty models, including sunglasses, prescription glasses and watches for men and women. Each piece embodies the essence of both brands—Chilli Beans’ musicality and Swarovski’s glamour, with crystals used in ways that range from a subtle sparkle to a daring dazzle. 

I started out in 1998 with a wholesale business. When my biggest buyer didn’t pay, I went bust. That was a difficult time, but I picked myself up and created my own brand, Chilli Beans, which taught me a valuable lesson: never give up. I began with a small stand at Mundo Mix Market, which is a fashion fair for young people in São Paulo; the idea was to sell high-quality, trend-focused, affordable sunglasses, and it was an amazing success. 

Ours is a ‘fast fashion’ model. We launch an average of forty designs a month in a wide range of colors and prints, because we believe that fashion-lovers should have a choice of sunglasses every day—something to suit their mood, look, and, of course, the weather. 

I’m not only a fan of sunglasses—I have a collection of around 200 watches. My favorite is a skull design by Alexandre Herchcovitch for Chilli Beans. I also love the styles from the Seventies.  

Rock musicians are my eyewear icons. Sunglasses are a symbol of rock-‘n’-roll cool—can you imagine Ozzy Osbourne, John Lennon or Lenny Kravitz without them? Impossible. I’d love to design a pair for Bowie—he’s a music, fashion and culture icon, so there’s an open invitation for him to do anything he wants at Chilli Beans!