Color in the Shades

Oversized plastic frames will still be in for summer, but they will come in a range of colors beyond basic black and tortoise shell.

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NEW YORK — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is credited with making famous the big plastic sunglass styles that became so popular last year, although she never saw them in colors like these.

At the recent Vision Expo East show held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here, it was clear that oversized plastic frames will still be in for summer, but they will come in a range of colors outside of the traditional black and tortoise. Some came in white, others paired metallics with neutrals in two-tone styles and many had temples treated to pop-color stripes and detailing.

With some early spring styles already in stores, vendors said they are optimistic about business this year. Women are beginning to wardrobe their sunglasses, meaning that they’re buying more than one pair to coordinate with different looks.

“The luxury end of the business is excellent,” said Mark Ugenti, vice president of sales at Safilo Group, which licenses Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Marc Jacobs, among others. “We expect to have a very good year based on all the new product.”

Designer Robert Marc said, “People want things that are special and exclusive.”

Marc introduced his Kalahari collection that was inspired by the African desert of the same name. The square, plastic white, red and tortoise-shell frames featured a giraffe pattern on the inside in colors such as sage green and garnet.

“It’s like a fabulous lining in an opera coat,” Marc said. “It’s that quiet sense of luxury.”

Kate Spade’s tortoiseshell sunglasses were striped inside, mimicking the linings of her bags. Blocks of color appeared on the outside of some frames.

Prada showed a modified plastic aviator style, as did many others, with bold frontal stripes resembling Neapolitan ice cream. Missoni offered a solid black frame with signature striped temples and two-tone frames in cherry red and milky white. At Oscar de la Renta, the colorblocking wasn’t so stark, but shades of red bled into yellow on its oversize plastic frame.

Clear plastic also showed up as an accent, appearing in lines from Jones New York, Alain Mikli and Face a Face.

This story first appeared in the March 28, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Paul Smith included a number of big plastic sunglasses with tortoiseshell frames and bronze metallic temples. However, “the best response has been for these jeweled frames,” said designer Larry Leight, in reference to his other brand, Oliver Peoples.

In recent years, crystals have been encrusted on lenses, frames and temples as everyone went after the bling trend. These days, the look is more subtle with designers using a smattering of tonal-colored stones.

Oliver Peoples, for instance, included a fuchsia frame with monochromatic crystal detail. Coach also featured scattered crystals on its temples, corresponding to the frame’s color.

A key component of sunglasses that has been slowly fading from other accessories, such as bags and shoes, is the logo.

“It’s about what you can do to make a logo interesting,” said Safilo’s Ugenti. “The designer sunglass business is a logo-driven business. The luxury end of the business is excellent. We expect to have a very good year based on all the new product.”

Safilo amplified the Dior name with a bold colored laser engraving in black and white or pink and orange. Other designers took a more subtle approach. Gucci used its signature horse bit on the temple to convey the brand and Marc Jacobs featured the turn-lock so commonly seen on his handbags.

Overall, the bottom line remains that bigger is better.

Mark Ginsberg, senior vice president of designer brands of Marchon, said the trend toward larger frames stems from Hollywood.

“Young Hollywood is emulating old-time Hollywood, from Jackie O to the Olsen twins’ oversized styles,” he said.

In line with that, Christian Roth showed a huge round rimless style with swirling metal temple that harked back to Sixties style.

“Big glasses make you look really famous,” said Eric Domege, Roth’s business partner. “And everyone wants to be famous.”

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