By and  on February 25, 2002

FROM GARBO ON, SHOWBIZ TYPES HAVE TAKEN TO SUNGLASSES FOR THEIR COOL-ENHANCING PROPERTIES. NOW, VENDORS ARE STARRY-EYED OVER HOLLYWOOD'S MARKETING OPPORTUNITIES.

For Hollywood's movie and music glitterati, sunglasses have long offered protection from dizzying flashbulbs and prying eyes, while lending their wearer a certain sought-after mystique.

But as more high-profile fashion designers are delving into the category -- recent additions include John Galliano, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and Vera Wang -- the accessory's already considerable cool factor has ratcheted even higher, with stars and stylists regarding the right sunglasses the way they might a million-dollar bauble.

Stylist Alexander Allen, whose company Transformers Inc. works on music videos and album-cover shoots for recording artists like Eve and Destiny's Child, said sunglasses are every bit as important as clothes these days. "For Eve, it's like a hat or a fedora. It finishes off a look," he said.

Allen pointed to the recent rage for pastel-lensed sunglasses, which can be worn regardless of the hour. "They used to be just functional," he said. "Now you can wear them from day to night. And if she doesn't have time for makeup, she can put on a hat or scarf and sunglasses and she's styled."

Allen said he first saw Christian Dior frames, which are his favorites, in print ads. He then contacted Eden Wexler, public relations manager at Safilo USA, which manufactures sunglasses for Christian Dior, Gucci, Burberry and Kate Spade and, beginning in spring, Yves Saint Laurent.

"I call her on an as-needed basis and she will send me an array," said Allen. "I always keep a couple of pairs around because [Eve] needs a pair for the red carpet, a pair to perform in and another pair for the after-party."

Derek Kahn, who styles Pink, said, "Sunglasses are just an essential part of the wardrobe. I have yet to encounter a celebrity or artist who does not want sunglasses constantly. With the paparazzi hovering around, you need them to go into nightclubs."

Stylist Nicole Simone, who works with L'il Kim, added, "They add a little mystery. That's why [stars] opt to leave them on." She added that celebs are so bombarded by paparazzi, they use sunglasses to hide. "[Celebrities] are so exposed -- and in L'il Kim's case, barely covered -- so I would say something has to be covered!"

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