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As Philippe Vergez was drawing up plans to launch his own line of sunglasses in 2003, he had just one nonnegotiable: It had to be eyewear exclusively for women. “At the time, there was the fashion of oversize glasses, but I couldn’t find any big frames that would fit women properly,” he says. “Their facial structure is completely different to that of men.” The following year, Vergez started his first collection under the name Jee Vice Optics, offering up his imaginings of couture-inspired eyewear. They were big, bold and with an extravagant sensibility, and were intended for a certain category of confident women. “We had to make ourselves known and make people understand what we were doing,” says Vergez. “Most women were buying a brand for the name. We had to fight to make them understand that while the name is important, the way they looked was important, too.” His efforts appear to have paid off; the eyewear began popping up on young celebrities (Anne Hathaway and Lindsay Lohan are new fans), which gave Jee Vice instant visibility and that all-important street cred. In January, Jee Vice moved its main corporate headquarters from France to San Clemente, Calif., in part to focus expansion on the domestic market. According to Chad Navarro, vice president of U.S. sales for Jee Vice, the brand is sold in about 300 doors nationwide, including majors such as Nordstrom, independent boutiques like Shop Intuition in Los Angeles and specialty optical retailers such as Dan Deutsch Optical Outlook in Beverly Hills. Navarro says he was expecting “major growth” going forward. “Our target goal is to expand into 600 stores nationwide [by the end of 2009],” he says. This expansion will in part be driven by an optical line being introduced by Jee Vice later this year. Navarro says he is confident that Jee Vice’s key selling points — each piece is designed individually and made by hand in
Italy, based on inspiration drawn by Vergez from the European underground music and art scene — will generate even more enthusiasm among retailers and consumers. “There is a strong emphasis on attention to detail,” says Navarro.
In addition to the upcoming optical collection, new styles for next season include wire rims with leather on the temples down to the earpiece, as well as frames that mesh plastic nylon with metal wire. Prices average $250 at retail. “It’s not just about making money, but to make the best product,” he says. “When I design, I think of the beautiful, successful
woman. She’s my target.”
This story first appeared in the July 21, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.