By  on October 18, 2010

Fashion-focused optical eyeware is leading the way for spring, and a less conservative consumer is driving the trend.

For Ray-Ban, nearly 50 percent of the collection's optical styles in 2011 are bolder frames, up from only 25 to 30 percent in 2010. The line wholesales from $48 to $90.

Tom Coleman, president and general manager at LensCrafters, attributes these statistics to customer demand. As a result, Ray-Ban has transformed the Aviator, Clubmaster and Wayfarer — its three most iconic sunglass styles — into optical offerings.

"This is the first item people see when they look at your face," Coleman said. "The days of wearing frames that were neutral are behind us. I think there is some boredom with that. Consumers want vivid colors, unique pieces and designer brands. As consumers continue to find ways to showcase their personal style, they've become more concerned about having the right frame for different occasions. There's a real spotlight on this right now. There have been a lot of interesting messages that get played up in the media lately. Tavi Gevinson has made optical frames a must-have accessory for a whole new generation of consumers."

To that effect, the optical frames worn by models in Prada's fall 2010 runway show solidified fashion eyewear as an "It" accessory right now. Miuccia Prada's collection had a retro feel, and the parade of cinched waists and full-skirted dresses was the perfect vehicle to showcase the brand's cat's-eye glasses. While these exact styles will not be sold in stores, more "consumer friendly" pieces will be available, wholesaling for $92 to $196, according to the company.

The dark-hued "geek chic" look also continues to build momentum, Coleman said, again citing Ray-Ban's Wayfarer and Clubmaster as the dominant styles dictating the trend. Offerings range from mediumsize frames to bolder styles with larger and thicker frames, but they're not the only ones doing this.

The 15-piece Giorgio Armani Frames of Life collection, which wholesales for $99 to $140, includes plastic Forties- and Fiftiesinspired shapes, including a square style with plastic trim just on the top rim, a thick plastic frame and a round, thinner plastic pair.

"With Giorgio Armani, we have developed a whole new optical collection revisiting the iconic styles of the brand's original designs from the Eighties," which took their inspirations from earlier decades, including the Twenties, Forties and Fifties, "that characterize the brand's heritage so well," said Ross Brownlee, chief operating officer of Safilo. "This is in addition to the ongoing contemporary focus for the classic male and female customer. As a result, the number of [styles] brought to market in 2010 versus 2009 has more than doubled."

Many brands are upping the fashion quotient by adding to the color offerings of their optical frames. For its spring collection, Diane von Furstenberg Optical added 11 styles and introduced vibrant shades of orange, red and fuchsia. Several styles tie back to von Furstenberg's ready-to-wear collection, including a pair of black lacquered frames embellished with pink, jewel-encrusted lips — a reinterpretation of the designer's famous Lip Print. All Diane von Furstenberg Optical frames wholesale for $65 to $85.

"I think the connection between sunglasses and optical is actually taking hold, and there's a good synergy between the design aesthetic that gets translated onto the optical," Mark Ginsberg, Marchon's senior vice president of global marketing and fashion brands, said. "Women are using optical glasses as a trend. They want to differentiate the trait amongst themselves, and they want to have options in shape, color and brand. We're being a little bolder in our offerings. Consumers are really reacting positively to that. They're more confident and they are embracing optical. It's what they are really wearing every day, all day."

Another example of this is Emilio Pucci Optical, where the brand translates its iconic colorways and vintage printed scarves onto its spring optical collection. The 17 styles, which wholesale from $120 to $160, are available in a palette of neutrals with pops of purple, yellow, pink and blue.

Other brands that have significantly increased their optical-frame offerings include Fendi, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein.

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