By  on October 29, 2007

PARIS — Limited edition lines, exclusive materials and voluminous frames defined collections at eyewear fair Silmo.

Despite the strong value of the euro against the dollar, retail executives continued to see business on the bright side, with plans to up budgets by as much as 15 percent and add more high-end and luxury styles.

"The business is only going to grow," said Michael Hansen, vice president and general manager of Ilori, the high-end eyewear retailer owned by Luxottica. "[Luxury frames] are recession-proof and not impacted by negative economic times."

Hansen said he expected to see prices on the rise for ultrapremium styles following trends in the handbag and luxury watch sectors.

"We will see exclusive frames at very high price points," he said.

Precious materials, such as buffalo horn and solid gold frames, some embedded with diamonds, and exotic skins made a strong showing at the fair, which ended its four-day run at the Porte de Versailles here on Oct. 22. Other key trends were discrete brand motifs and rectangular and flat-fronted lenses. Cat's eye and circular shapes reminiscent of the Forties and Fifties were prevalent in optical and sunglass frames.

"We save our dollars for European labels," said Thérèse Langille, owner of San Francisco-based eyewear store Through the Hayes. "There is a lot more innovation here. Design-conscious styles keep us placing orders despite the strength of the euro. Beautiful new metal work and a return to retro fashion from the Fifties and Hollywood offered uniqueness."

Langille said she would boost her budget by as much as 15 percent.

"It's a new interpretation of the Fifties and Sixties," said Maurizio Marcolin, chief executive officer of Marcolin, presenting five new interpretations of Tom Ford's Whitney style, including bamboo-inspired branches or rose-tinted lenses.

Marcolin noted high-end fashion brands, especially Tom Ford Eyewear and Roberto Cavalli, were driving up sunglass sales overall.

Vendors were upbeat, with the U.S. market continuing to be the driving force, as well as a spike in demand for sunglasses in Asia. For example, America accounts for about 20 percent of Marcolin's revenues."Today, the U.S. represents the biggest opportunity in luxury eyewear," said Fabio D'Angelantonio, marketing director of Luxottica Group. "In fact, it can be argued that the U.S. is the biggest emerging market for luxury overall. Hence, our decision to focus Ilori for the time being in this market to maximize the impact of the new retail concept."

New York-based Modo, manufacturer for niche brands such as Derek Lam, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Tretorn and Fabien Baron, said it too was gearing up for retail expansion. Modo said it will open a London-based concept store before year's end, as well as a similar format in New York next year. The brand disclosed it was also working on a collaboration line with Dutch industrial designer Marcel Wanders for the following season. Modo said it expects to see its 2007 sales increase by as much as 30 percent.

At Marchon, Emilio Pucci's eyewear line made its worldwide debut at the fair.

"It's luxury eyewear for a glamorous woman, a very fashionable and very feminine woman who lives the luxury life," said Laudomia Pucci, who noted the last Emilio Pucci eyewear line dated back to the Eighties.

The collection boasts vintage-inspired frames and iconic elements from the fashion label, such as the brand's signature Vivara print applied to sunglass branches. Pucci sunglass frames, some in vivid turquoise, violet or gold, will retail for around $285 to $400. Marchon also unveiled Fendi's solid gold collection, some embedded with 82 diamonds, retailing for $3,000 to $6,000.

The collection is a part of the brand's limited edition program that introduces special lines every two months in select stores.

Calvin Klein was also making a spectacle at the show with a collection inspired by its handbags, using exotic skins such as alligator and snakeskin for around $500 at retail.

At Luxottica, luxury styles remained a driving force.

"The beautiful thing about our sector is that there still are plenty of opportunities in terms of markets, segments and more, and that it is literally a sector that is growing under our feet," said D'Angelantonio, who added that strong categories included men's eyewear, optical and high-end luxury.The group's Ray-Ban brand is going glitzy with its Ray-Ban Ultra line, a limited edition collection of the Aviator and Outdoorsman styles made in titanium, beta-titanium and pure gold that will feature an engraved serial number on the inner side and will retail for $485.

Levi's also launched eyewear at the fair. Levi's Eyewear is licensed to French firm Lunettes Grasset Associes, a subsidiary of L'Amy Group. Designs will include riffs on retro styles, such as butterfly-shaped designs popular in the Fifties. The brand's codes, such as rivets and the Levi's Red Tab and Two Horse logos, will also be featured on the range, which will be distributed in Europe-based eyewear and Levi's stores starting in January. Prices will range from about $140 to $260.

Paris-based Face à Face, known for its eccentric optical frames, said its sunglass business was thriving.

"We are making our department store debut," said Nadine Roth, the brand's vice president and co-founder.

Roth said the brand's U.S. sales increased 40 percent in the year ended Sept. 30.

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