By  on March 28, 2011

NEW YORK — Modern takes on retro and vintage-inspired shapes and lenses with 3-D technology are the key trends in eyewear as the market is benefiting from a return of the luxury customer.

The buzz at the recent VisionExpo East show here was all about 3-D, with numerous companies showing the technology.

Marchon Eyewear introduced 3-D polarized lenses for Nike that permit consumers to use the glasses for viewing 3-D media, as well for everyday use. With photochromic capability, the multifunctional glasses use photosensitive lenses that respond to changes in light.

“There’s a boom in the market,” said Marchon president and chief executive officer Claudio Gottardi. “Three-million [3-D capable] televisions will be delivered in North America this year.”

With an entry price point of $150, the Nike sunglasses will come in a variety of shapes, ranging from “sporty” to “modern and sexy,” said Gottardi, explaining that the more moderate price would be attractive to a broad range of consumers.

“Consumers are buying luxury in reduction,” he said. “The $200 to $300 market is coming back close to precrisis levels, while the $300 to $400 market is experiencing a more marginal comeback.”

For those who hope to combine attainable price, designer appeal and 3-D technology, Marchon is also rolling out 3-D technology for CK Calvin Klein eyewear, among other brands.

“Technology is changing so fast with all the TVs. In six months, they might say you don’t need 3-D glasses,” said Oliver Peoples founder and creative director Larry Leight. “I don’t know if it’s going to work with the TVs. They might invent a spray one day for your glasses.”

Leight wasn’t dismissing technology — his Luxottica Group-owned company carries a 3-D accessory to clip onto its glasses — but he is admittedly more tied to the fashion trends in the market.

Oliver Peoples, whose eyewear retails from $350 to $400, is banking on trends in optical glasses that include deeper, more vertical frames that give an “intellectual look,” he said, referencing the company’s newest collaboration.

Paying homage to the 50th anniversary of the acclaimed film “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Gregory Peck’s Academy Award-winning performance as Atticus Finch, the eyewear firm worked with the late actor’s son to develop a replica of the glasses worn by Peck in the film.

In sunglasses, the company looks to trends like oversize, cat-eye styles that hearken back to the Sixties and Seventies.

At VisionExpo East, the company showcased “The Blondell,” round, Janis Joplin-inspired lightweight sunglasses made from titanium.

Other sunglasses trends include variations of the round shape in metal and plastic. Colors range from neutral and pastel to spotted tortoise shell with yellow and amber-hued undertones.

“Lenses with a mirror effect are making a comeback,” added Safilo Group ceo Roberto Vedovotto. “Carrera is doing very well with that.”

Vedovotto, whose company sells eyewear between $90 and $350 from designers like Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Armani and Dior, said that while luxury spending across the world is rebounding at different rates, one trend that seems to be universal is that buyers are looking for value first, and brand, second.

“Overall, the luxury eyewear category is growing due to market interest in China, India and the Middle East,” said Andrea Dorigo, president of Luxottica wholesale North America. “As consumer demand for designer eyewear increases, the industry has had to revamp the value proposition creating thoughtful improvements to lens technology, product design and even longevity.”

While technology and trends were a large part of the focus of the show, which took place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center March 18 to 21, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan also was a major topic of conversation because of the impact it could have on the market.

“Business is secondary when something like that happens,” said Cliff Robinson, the president of licensing firm B.Robinson. “But business is going to be challenging for a while. It’s like after September 11th — no one wants to go shopping.”

The luxury eyewear company said it had to halt the launch of its Betsey Johnson collection in Japan, as well as delay the expansion of its Judith Leiber line at Paris Miki’s Tokyo flagship for a few months.

Nonetheless, Robinson said he’s seeing “renewed optimism in the market,” and a “definite return to luxury following the end of 2010.”

“Sales [at the trade show] were very brisk,” he said. “This is a time where people are focusing less on price point and are looking for value in luxury.”

The company’s Austrian crystal-encrusted Judith Leiber sunglasses, which retail from between $500 and $600, saw an increase in orders.

“It turns out, the eye care professional is becoming a good retailer,” he chuckled.

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