By  on October 8, 2007

LAS VEGAS — Nicole Richie better watch her back: She's getting serious competition for the position of chief sunglass trendsetter from the ghost of Steve McQueen.

Although sunglass exhibitors at the Vision Expo West trade show here didn't completely pull away from the ultraglitz of Richie-spotlighted elephant frames, they appear to be segueing to a casual cool aesthetic more suited to the driver's seat than the red carpet. Drawing from decades of yesteryear, vintage looks with subtle contemporary tweaks abounded at the event, held from Oct. 4 to 7 at the Sands Expo & Convention Center and neighboring Venetian Hotel Resort Casino.

Eyewear behemoth Luxottica rode the wave of nostalgia. Since the company's Ray-Ban subsidiary reintroduced the classic Wayfarer about a year ago, it has become Luxottica's third-best-selling style, and it is gunning for a Persol pair worn by McQueen in "The Thomas Crown Affair" to repeat the Wayfarer's success.

"I was traveling in Canada, and I was seeing a lot of the edgier types wearing the Persol," said Maristella Brentani, vice president of product for Luxottica Group SpA. "I was very pleased because it means we are capturing the audience we are after."

The McQueen Persol — number 649 — costs $270 retail for regular lenses and $320 for polarized ones.

Other companies marched out their versions of the Wayfarer. Oliver Peoples' entry was a thick-frame model dubbed the Hollis, while REM Eyewear alluded to the style in the vintage-inspired 100th anniversary Converse sunglasses, and Safilo mixed takes on the Wayfarer into its Juicy Couture, Hugo Boss, Kate Spade and Marc Jacobs licensed lines for early 2008.

"It really does work for both men and women," an Oliver Peoples spokeswoman said of the Wayfarer's appeal.

But Mark Ugenti, senior vice president of sales for Safilo USA's sunglass division, wasn't convinced the Wayfarer was conquering shades' shelves.

"I think there are other trends that are more important," he said. "To be on-trend, you need an oversized plastic, an embellished pair and, of course, you need to have an aviator."

Regardless of silhouette, logos were minimized. Safilo called the movement away from splashy brand icons "Stealth Wealth."

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