PARIS — Eyewear is going bespoke. Mykita brought the emerging trend into sharp focus at the recent Silmo eyewear salon here with the launch of its MVO — My Very Own Mykita collection, billed as the first “digitally tailored eyewear” as manufacturers turn more service-oriented in this highly competitive segment.
“We’re able to create a holistic product where the lens and the frame are being planned and produced together, that’s the game-changer,” the firm’s creative director Moritz Krueger said of the collection, which unites artificial fitting intelligence with hand-craft, with each model assembled by hand and personalized at Mykita Haus in Berlin. A 3-D scanner was in place at the brand’s stand, with tablet-wielding, lab-coat-wearing employees guiding visitors though the process.
Catering to the individual needs of opticians, Italia Independent’s tailor-made concept for sunglasses and frames — capable of producing a unique edition for each account with a minimum of 10 units — is going from strength to strength.
“It’s working very well, we have thousands of accounts with their own editions,” said the brand’s cofounder and managing director Giovanni Accongiagioco. “If we have an account in Normandy with a very traditional customer base, we can deliver a traditional frame according to the look and feel of the store and can do something different in the Marais in Paris for a trendy account. It’s something new that no one else is doing, and at the same price as the standard collection.”
In terms of general trends, retro is out, techno is in, industry insiders observed, pointing to modern, cleaner cuts and architectural shapes in industrial tones of matte black, grays and blues.
Also opening up customization opportunities, a number of firms were experimenting with tactile 3-D finishes on temples and frames. The winners of this year’s Silmo d’Or awards included Italy’s W-eye, which scooped the sunglass category with its hexagonal Aifir model inspired by lava formations and made from a mix of cherry-smoked European wood and smoked black locust wood.
Among collection highlights, unisex Berlin-based Portuguese techno label Vava presented its collaboration with the so-called “godfather of techno” Juan Atkins: a square frame evoking turntables with round lenses like records. In pursuit of the ultimate shade of black, Mari Vision Inc. presented inky acetate frames in a tie-up with Kobaien, Japan’s oldest manufacturer of Sumi ink, which is made from soot in a tradition dating back 400 years.
A more personalized approach to the eyewear licensing game also continues to be a hot topic following the big shake-up last year when Kering announced it was ending its licensing agreement with Safilo and bringing its eyewear licenses in-house. A growing number of nontraditional licensing agreements are flourishing, based on a more synergetic exchange between eyewear manufacturers and brands.
The debut Adidas Originals eyewear collection under Italia Independent, which in early September signed a four-year agreement for the production and distribution of Adidas Originals eyewear globally, will carry a joint logo. “In a traditional licensing agreement, they squeeze the brand in a certain way. We are integrating the eyewear collection inside the rest of the Adidas apparel and accessories — applying the same colors, prints and patterns as the main collection,” said Accongiagioco. “The wind is changing. The emerging trend is to control the business.”
Cutler and Gross, which is rumored to have acquired the German frame company Framers, has also been cultivating an intimate relationship with the design team at Sportmax, as the brand’s eyewear licensee since October 2012.
“We don’t really do licenses, it’s quite a rare thing for us, but they didn’t want to be under the umbrella of one of the big companies, they wanted to come to the source,” said Marie Wilkinson, Cutler and Gross’ design director. “We work really closely together, it’s quite personal, actually.” Other licenses are in the cards, she said. “As we grow as a company and have more retail outlets of our own, we can support distribution.”
Retailers signaled growing demand from consumers for authentic eyewear brands. “There’s an uptrend for non-licensed, niche homegrown eyewear brands like Dita, Retrosuperfuture, Matsuda and that’s becoming more and more relevant to the industry,” said Pazo Ho, founder of Visual Culture in Hong Kong. “They’d rather go with players who have eyewear as their core value, and manufacturing and quality and design rather than mass-produced with a logo and a branded name on it.”
“We’re looking for something strong and beautifully made,” said Patrick Aramburu, a buyer for L’Eclaireur Paris. Gert Põrk, founder of VIUU, an eyewear store based in Tallinn, Estonia, said: “I’m interested in handmade products from Europe, the crazier the better.”
Among new partnerships, Brando Eyewear, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mondottica Group, and licensee of the Yohji Yamamoto eyewear line, has signed a license agreement with Alyson Magee, a major talent in the industry, as former designer at Alain Mikli and the cofounder and creative force behind the Face à Face brand for nearly 10 years. The first collection of sunglass and optical frames is to launch for fall 2016.
Séamus McClintock, the firm’s business development manager, also confirmed the recent acquisition in joint ownership with Westlicht Gallery in Vienna of the entire archive of Udo Proksch. Regarded as one of the most creative and notorious designers in the history of eyewear, Proksch designed the first Carrera models and was the designer and alter ego behind the Serge Kirchhofer eyewear line.
The archive is to remain housed in Vienna, pending a major museum exhibition in late 2016 and Brando Eyewear, which also owns the Serge Kirchhofer trademarks, is mulling a relaunch of the brand, possibly under a different name.