Will you shop blind? That’s the question two brothers are asking online shoppers. Having lost much of their sight to a rare disorder, the pair are laser-focused on funding blindness research.
Bradford and Bryan Manning are the founders of Two Blind Brothers clothing company. Both have suffered from Stargardt disease since they were children. The inherited condition causes central vision loss.
When Bradford was seven, a doctor told his mother to “take him home, get him a magnifier, and maybe teach him Braille,” Bryan recalls.
Still, the brothers determined “visual impairment never was going to be an excuse in our lives,” says Bryan.
In 2015, the brothers got separated while shopping. When they found each other, they’d purchased matching shirts. The experience sparked an idea.
“It was the feel of it. It felt so soft and comfortable that we both keyed upon it,” Bryan says. They decided to “make super comfortable clothing” and donate the profits to scientists researching eye diseases. With advice from friends in the fashion industry, two blind brothers became . . . Two Blind Brothers, or 2BB.
2BB is a company built on touch. The casual, ultra-soft clothing is made of bamboo, cotton, and spandex. Braille clothing tags read vision, feel, or brother. Braille might also indicate the color of a garment or replace a letter in a word like fearless or fight on shirts, socks, or beanies.
2BB’s most popular product is “shopping blind” mystery boxes. Buyers answer a few questions about the person they’re shopping for. The result is a leap of faith: a gift that’s a surprise to both receiver and giver.
Unboxing 2BB mystery boxes has become a social media phenomenon. Customers often upload photos and videos on various online channels. Some even open boxes blindfolded.
All 2BB profits go to groups that fund research on retinal eye ailments like the one the Mannings have.
The brothers include their story in every mystery box, with special thanks. “When someone shops blind, they prove something remarkable,” they write. “They prove that genuine trust is real.”
Today, the brothers’ condition has slowed, leaving both with peripheral vision. They’re thankful. But they want more. They believe blindness can be cured in the next five years. “We’re really on the five-yard-line,” Bryan says.
“Vision impairment has given more to us than it’s taken away,” Bradford says. “Your greatest challenge is your greatest gift.”