By  on October 28, 2010

LAS VEGAS — Eyewear companies touted the “new luxury” at the International Vision Expo West trade show, as manufacturers pushed toned-down logos and cutting-edge technology and materials, along with a focus on craftsmanship.

“Luxury is partially coming back, but excessive displays of wealth are over,” said Claudio Gottardi, president and chief executive officer of Marchon International, which has invested in 3-D technology to make eyewear both functional and fashion forward. “Today, products have to have a purpose, not show how much money you spend by the number of stones on them or the visibility of the logo.

“Fashion lines that thrive on simplicity or minimalism, such as Calvin Klein and Jil Sander, may have had a hard time before, but now the pendulum has swung in their direction,” he said. “Buyers are focusing on that trend and looking for frames that will look good for one year versus look cool for one month. We’ve gone from a credit society to a savings society.”

Alessandro Lanaro, president and ceo of Modo, which makes an in-house line called Eco and has licenses for Phillip Lim, Derek Lam, Jason Wu and Seven For All Mankind, characterized the change generated by global economic turmoil as “definitely a new normal. Consumers are looking for better ratio of design, quality and price. It’s a return to real value as opposed to fluff pricing. We play well in that type of environment, where we need to give a little more. No doubt there is less brand loyalty, and that is where a more subdued and less obvious product can take more market share.”

Those themes were manifested in the 2011 sunglass styles unveiled during the three-day trade show at the Sands Expo that ended on Oct. 9 — attendance was up 9 percent compared with last year for the more than 450 exhibitors — as well as at the Silmo show in Paris last month.

Retro styling (round, cat’s-eye and flat, oversize frames), matte and translucent acetate frames, subtle mirrored lenses and an emphasis on unique temples were among the top trends. At Viva International, which launched its William Rast collection, retailing for about $150, the retro styling was interpreted as a sporty accent to the apparel.

To be sure, some major brands that thrive on flash aren’t changing their core. Marcolin’s Roberto Cavalli and John Galliano licenses are embracing luxury seekers with a 40th anniversary limited edition snakeskin-wrapped, gold-plated aviator for $790 and shield sunglasses featuring open metalwork frames with stained-glass detail for $400, respectively.

At Safilo Group, whose stable of luxury licenses includes Giorgio Armani, Dior, Gucci, YSL, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Valentino and Marc Jacobs, the logos were less obvious and the details were pared down to reflect the essence of each house. Some designer names were printed or etched only on the inside of the temples, and subtle embellishments from clothing and accessories were reinterpreted into eyewear, such as Bottega Veneta’s tiny foil butterflies embedded in translucent acetate frames or textured metal on the temples of Giorgio Armani glasses.

“Overall, our higher-end luxury and designer brands are featuring logo treatments in the form of refined, iconic, brand-specific embellishments that are indicative of each of the fashion houses,” said Ross Brownlee, chief operating officer of Safilo Americas.

At Legacie, higher-end Judith Leiber and David Yurman Eyewear lines featured the same stones and precious metals used in the actual bags and jewelry, but even Leiber’s signature bling was toned down to accents rather than being the main focus. Instead, there was intricate laser etching for texture, and customized colored acetates that mimicked the look of actual gems.

“The times when you can do ‘good enough’ are over,” said Maristella Brentani, vice president of product for Luxottica Group. “The most important thing now is to execute product where value is directly related to the position of style.”

For the company’s Chanel license, a black acetate frame featured ebony temples with the logo spelled in inlaid mother-of-pearl, and at Tiffany & Co., the house’s signature keys or customizable charms adorned the hinges of the temples. “It is time to refocus luxury back to its core, and to keep each price segment looking unique,” Brentani said.

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