Vuitton’s New Spectacle

After a teaser assortment of shades this year, Louis Vuitton has launched a sunglass collection to coincide with its cruise line.

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NEW YORK — When the Louis Vuitton woman is heading off to various warm-weather ports of call this coming winter, she can pack her favorite outfit, monogram handbag, logo charm bracelet and now sunglasses.

After a teaser assortment of shades this spring, the Paris-based fashion house has officially launched the Louis Vuitton sunglass collection to coincide with its 2005/2006 cruise presentation.

“We believe it is important to launch the first complete collection at the same time as cruise, as it allows us to accessorize the ready-to-wear looks,” said Jean-Louis Roblin, managing director of Louis Vuitton’s sunglasses and jewelry.

Louis Vuitton designer Marc Jacobs first introduced sunglasses to the 151-year-old brand in April with a limited-edition collection developed in conjunction with rapper and producer Pharrell Williams and A Bathing Ape founder Nigo. The collection comprised eight styles that began to establish a signature look for the brand, including a rimless silhouette with gradient raspberry lenses accented at the corners with a logo flower and racing red aviators shot through with a gold stripe and embellished at the temples with an S-lock closure interpreted from that used on the brand’s luggage.

“There has been a very positive response to the collection,” Roblin said. “Even the extreme image models did well. It says that customers were waiting for Louis Vuitton to launch sunglasses.”

The new collection builds upon the fashion elements — and especially the logo treatments — that were present in those previous styles, but enhances it with a functional side that has been in development for more than two years.

“Just like any other Louis Vuitton product, ultimate quality is crucial,” Roblin said. “As we are not going down the road of licensing at all, it took time to find the right manufacturers that would craft the sunglasses up to the quality standards of any other Louis Vuitton product.”

All the new sunglasses will be manufactured in the Jura region in France from either a cotton-based acetate that is cut and polished by hand, or gold or silver metal. The cotton-based acetates were developed by a color specialist and range from solids such as blacks and browns to caramel-colored faux-horn treatments and deeper-hued faux tortoiseshells.

This story first appeared in the July 11, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

There also is an assortment of signature acetates, including one that is translucent and works in glitter for a subtle sheen, another that combines the LV monogram and flower into an allover pattern and a final one that features the house’s historic Damier check and will appear only on the inside arms of certain silhouettes. The metals all are embossed with a repeated miniature LV logo.

Louis Vuitton consulted with German-based optical company Zeiss, which produced lenses that provide the same ultraviolet protection found in many high-end sports brands. The company also developed exclusively for Louis Vuitton the patented LV Landscape Vision lens, which seeks to push forward sunglass technology by combining protection with a polarization treatment that reduces irritating reflections and a second treatment that enhances color and contrasts. This lens, which will cost slightly more than the others, will be available only in black and only for those styles that can aesthetically work with a dark lens.

Louis Vuitton sunglasses will comprise six women’s, two men’s and four unisex silhouettes, named after film noir themes, such as Suspicion, Obsession, Falsehood, Plot, Conspiracy and Blackmail.

“This [film noir] theme conjures ideas of Forties and Fifties elegance with an element of timelessness,” said Roblin.

The styles also take their inspiration from famous personalities.

“When we decided to go into making sunglasses, we looked at icons, legends, rock stars and movie stars,” Jacobs said. “We looked to anyone whose choice of eyewear or sunglasses resonated a dialogue about sunglasses.”

The Obsession style features an oversized rectangular shape in acetate. The arms are embossed in gold with the LV and flower logo in a strip. Conspiracy is an aviator shape in metal with the flower logo accenting the hinge that attaches the nosepieces and a metallic logo tab at the ends of the arms. Suspicion is a smaller rectangular frame that showcases the S-lock at its temples.

“The approach to doing sunglasses was no different than the approach to making a jacket or a handbag,” Jacobs said. “We payed attention to the details — details that come from existing things within Vuitton’s world.”

Vuitton expects the debut assortment to be the core of the collection, with additional styles being added over time. The collection will retail for $350 to $550 beginning in November at Louis Vuitton stores only.

“We want our clients to have this [sunglass] service in our stores, and are therefore training our sales teams to ensure that quality of service and to explain the key product features,” said Roblin, adding there is no plan to widen distribution outside the house’s retail network.

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