By  on October 5, 2009

PARIS — Despite a smaller turnout, exhibitors at the Silmo eyewear trade show expressed some optimism and focused on the latest trends, such as vintage.

The event, also marked by sweltering conditions because of an overzealous heating system, ended its four-day run here Sept. 20.

“We feel there’s a coagulation in the market, meaning it’s starting to come together; there’s a buzz in the air,” said David Schulte, chief executive officer of Oliver Peoples, which also produces Paul Smith and Moseley Tribes shades.

The brand has released a range of original vintage frames for select retailers for spring. Certain styles feature original vintage glass lenses from the Forties and Fifties.

Rhydian Healy, marketing manager for Oliver Goldsmith, said, “We can see people buying more confidently and reordering.”

In tandem with Silmo, the British brand launched its first optical line in a private showroom across town.

Brands said they were still struggling with prices and the growing reluctance among consumers to spend big on eyewear.

“The biggest challenge today is that the consumer is confused about the value of product….Clients need to perceive quality through material and design,” said Claudio Gottardi, president of Marchon and ceo of Marchon International, which introduced techno-chic sunglasses at ck Calvin Klein with a detachable USB key stick as the right temple.

Key trends highlighted by retailers included a return to volume, decorative temples, modularity, ombré lenses and color. Turquoise was cited as a ruling shade for spring.

Clients have been buying more glasses but at lower prices, she noted.

Blake Kuwahara, founder of the new design collective Focus Group West, which provides design services to the eyewear industry, said styles inspired by the late Seventies will be key for spring.

Cutler and Gross, which is marking its 40th anniversary this year, had also reissued classics, including the first frame made by the brand — a pair of clear acetate optical frames. Anna Komanius, the company’s brand manager, said business suffered during the last three years because of the shut down several factories in northern Italy specializing in handmade frames. In order to secure production, the brand in May took over a factory formerly belonging to the company Movis, Komanius said. New fashion eyewear lines handled by the brand include Victoria Beckham, Giles and Erdem.

“Business is growing because people are realizing that having a designer logo on a product does not equal quality,” Komanius said.

Lloyd Silverstein, owner of Underground, a high-end eyewear store based in San Francisco, said he was surprised by the number of major firms that did not attend the event. Among discoveries, he cited a screwless hinge in ProDesign’s new Sense line.

Several firms added accessible lines and streamlined collections. At the other extreme, Sama launched a limited edition sunglass style with 24-karat gold lenses priced at about $20,000 retail. Profits go to the Sam Vance Foundation, benefiting children with substance addictions.

“There is ongoing demand for luxury, but what is even more important is luxury limited edition,” said a Sama spokesman. “All of the brands are doing it because they sell for twice as much and they sell quicker.”

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