By  on April 2, 2007

Who's that behind those $130,000 sunglasses?

While the price of those limited edition jeweled Cartier shades will inflict sticker shock on many consumers, eyewear makers are targeting big spenders, namely, those who are plunking down thousands of dollars on designer handbags.

"America is trading up. What was once expensive is now the opening price point," said Mark Ugenti, senior vice president of sales for Safilo's retail sunglass division.

Safilo produces eyewear for such upscale brands as Giorgio Armani, Gucci and Dior.

"You look at handbag and shoe prices going up and up. In the future, you will see [eyewear] that is much more expensive [than now]," Ugenti added.

While celebrity cool was the push behind the Sixties ad slogan "Who's that behind those Foster Grants?" opulent luxury is now the name of the game. Some are comforting their demanding upscale consumers with diamond- and ruby-encrusted 18-karat gold eyewear. Kieselstein-Cord Eyewear boasts a signature alligator fob bedecked in diamonds, and Chrome Hearts recently jeweled its Disfunctional frame to the tune of $10,000.

Loree Rodkin offers diamond-encrusted crosses, peace signs and hearts on custom eyewear, produced by Sama, where designer Sheila Vance is often asked to do custom work. She recently created the Pyramid of Diamonds frame with 3.23 carats of diamonds and another frame with an 8-carat diamond at the temple.

"One of the biggest trends for spring heading into fall is this idea of trading up into something that's fine, like a fine jewelry sunglass," said Ed Burstell, Bergdorf Goodman's senior vice president and general merchandise manager of beauty, jewelry and accessories. "We've had success selling Cartier in the $3,000 range, gold and wood [Cartier frames] and the $5,000 range."

Bergdorf's will offer $4,000 frames from Kieselstein-Cord, a $6,000 Oliver Peoples limited edition and pricy ones, too, from Leiber and Golden Wood.

"The work going into all of these glasses commands a higher price," Burstell said. "There's a lot more handwork in all of these."

A spokeswoman for Optical Shop of Aspen said its Miami store often sells out of the jeweled frames.

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