NEW YORK — Over the weekend, more than 22,000 visitors from more than 90 countries descended upon New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center with one goal: to find the latest and greatest in eyewear. The annual International Vision Expo East delivered just that with countless booths showing off the newest styles from major eyewear players, including Luxottica, Marcolin, Marchon, Safilo and DeRigo, as well as smaller independent designers.
Across the floor, one message seemed to ring true: Business was good. Marcolin, which oversees brands such as Tom Ford, Balenciaga, Tod’s, Diesel and Swarovski, noted the company has closed 2014 with high-single-digit growth over the previous year. Marchon, which noted that over the last few years European business has more than doubled, attributed its own financial success to the return, and shift of customers since the general fiscal woes of the late Aughts. “We have interpreted really well the growth of the mid- to high-tier market,” said president Claudio Gottardi. “In 2009, the so-called luxury market came to a screeching halt, but the eyewear didn’t necessarily come down as much, because optical is a necessity. You may wait to get a handbag or a new pair of shoes, but eyewear you need. What happened then was that the financial crisis of 2010 had a lingering effect on the eyewear market, and over the last five years, the very top high-end luxury brands have lost market share. And what happened was all the brands in the mid-high tier ended up doing very well. We were very well positioned there with CK Calvin Klein and Nike and Lacoste. All of a sudden, we found ourselves as a leader of that market, and that kept us growing.”
Among the company’s current top-selling brands: Chloé, Calvin Klein and Ferragamo, which Gottardi noted has double-digit increases year-over-year. At the show, the brand also highlighted a new aviator style from Valentino called the “mask aviator.”
Marchon plans to keep the momentum going well into 2015 with its two newest brands: Etro and MCM, the latter of which Gottardi hopes will help the brand tap into the Asian market. “MCM is a very, very powerful brand in Asia,” he said. “Last year it grew 60 percent over the last year, and analysts predict that in three years it will be a $2 billion brand.”
Marcolin is also putting its muscle behind two more brands: Emilio Pucci and Ermenegildo Zegna. “Zegna is probably one of the biggest success for a launch that we’ve ever had,” said chief executive officer Fabrizio Gamberini, adding that Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue had already signed on as stockists. The company’s top-seller is a veritable veteran in the industry: Tom Ford. “Mr. Ford is extremely smart,” Gamberini said. “He was smart enough to [move his show to L.A.] — why not? The Oscars were there, and he did an amazing job. He’s a smart person.” The Hollywood-Tom Ford synergy will continue through the year, with Daniel Craig once again donning the designer’s sunglasses as James Bond in the latest 007 movie, “Spectre,” due out this fall. Other top licenses for Marcolin include Balenciaga, which Gamberini attributes to the design direction of Alexander Wang, and Swarovski, which saw growth of more than 260 percent year over year.
Safilo counted Dior, Boss, Tommy Hilfiger and Max Mara, the latter of which saw double-digit growth, year-over-year, in 2014, among top-performing brands. Additionally, Polaroid saw 2014 net sales up more than 20 percent for the second year in a row. For 2015, the brand is setting its sights on a much smaller customer with the launch of their Kids by Safilo eyewear collection, which focuses on children up to eight years old. “This new line of 100 percent made in Italy glasses is specifically designed to meet children’s needs in terms of safety, stability, strength, lightness and aesthetics,” said Nicola Bonaventura, artistic director of proprietary brands. “The new optical frames, made from safe, hypoallergenic and bio-based materials, come in soft colors with transparent and tonal shading effects to complement the children’s face.” German-based independent design house Mykita also showed their take on children’s with the launch of Mykita First. “We are a company that has customers of all generations, but that first generation was missing,” said cofounder Moritz Krueger.
At Luxottica, the emphasis was on Michael Kors, which received its own pop-up shop within the company’s booth. “This has been an unbelievable success for us this far,” said Holly Rush, president of wholesale, North America. “We’re really seeing the Michael Kors consumer start to look for more elevated styles and materials.” Rush went on to highlight some of the major trends, including the rise of round, “modern vintage” inspired glasses — a theme seen across multiple brands, both within the Luxottica umbrella and beyond. “It’s amazing how flattering round is on most face shapes,” she said, pointing out styles from Giorgio Armani and Ray-Ban.
Also a big trend at the show: new lens treatments, particularly in lighter shades. “It reminds me of Easter eggs,” Rush said of the new hues. At Sama Eyewear’s booth, designer Sheila Vance showed off her take on the trend: lenses that incorporate crushed opals to create a pearly sheen. “People, on a consumer level, the first thing they are attracted to is something new and something different,” said Vance, noting that the treatment took four years to develop. Nearby, Shane Baum of The Leisure Society displayed his own jewelry-inspired pieces, which took design influence from engagement rings and featured 18- or 24-karat gold-plated titanium. “There is that woman who has an unlimited budget and wants something special,” Baum said of his designs, which range from about $600 to $1,000 at retail. Oliver Peoples put its spin on the lens trend with the introduction of a “lens in lens” category, which combines different colors and lens techniques, such are mirrored or gradient.
At the DeRigo booth, the emphasis was placed on slightly updated existing eyewear codes, as evidenced by the CH Carolina Herrera and Carolina Herrera New York lines. At the former, neutrals of tortoise and black were enhanced with deeps reds and soft creams, while the main line updated a vintage pair of glasses worn by Herrera herself with futuristic metal touches along the arms of the frame. Barton Perreira also went the futuristic route with “The Affair,” a mod, rimless frame featuring a gold brow bar, done in collaboration with Christian Roth. “It was unconventional, but it was really easy to come together,” said cofounder Patty Perreira of partnering with another eyewear brand. Alain Mikli used a new acetate technique, called the “apesanteur,” to give its frames a unique look. The multiplating concept incorporates a three-layer acetate lamination, interrupted by a crystal middle layer to give a sense that the tip layer is “floating.”
Beyond the eyewear itself, the three-day event boasted some unexpected entertainment throughout the floor. Luxottica’s booth featured an interactive dance stage, while Safilo hosted several live fashion shows throughout the day. At The Leisure Society, composer Mark Mothersbaugh hung out to tout his collaboration with the brand and pose for pictures with devout Devo fans. Marchon even tapped into the reality TV scene, with E! cameras descending upon the Javits Center to film a scene for the upcoming season of “House of DVF.”