EYEWEAR FIRMS SHIFT FOCUS

Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — Whether it pertains to sunglasses or prescription frames, the eyewear arena is bustling with activity: Designers are switching licensees, retailers are launching their own brands and brands are opening in-store shops.
In conjunction with Tommy Hilfiger Corp., Lantis eyewear has acquired its license to produce and distribute ophthalmic frames from current Hilfiger licensee Liberty Optical. Lantis was already the licensee for Tommy Hilfiger sunglasses for men, women and children.
Most of Liberty’s dedicated Hilfiger sales force will join Lantis, according to a Lantis spokeswoman. Changes won’t occur in the product line until January, when new styles will be added to the men’s prescription line and women’s and children’s frames will debut. The new lines will feature better quality materials and be priced slightly higher than the existing line, the spokeswoman said, retailing from about $130 to $230. Lantis will also launch Tommy Jeans eyewear next year.
Besides Hilfiger, the firm produces licensed eyewear for Jones New York, Oscar de la Renta and the junior retailer Rampage. Lantis will cease production of Donna Karan and DKNY eyewear at the end of the year.
As of January, Marchon has the exclusive worldwide rights to manufacture, market and distribute Donna Karan and DKNY sun and ophthalmic eyewear collections for men and women. The first Marchon-produced product will be in store for spring 2000.
The lines will be available in department and specialty store and select optical retailers as well as Donna Karan and DKNY stores. Marchon will support the collections with a global advertising campaign.
“With the contract due to expire, we just felt it was an appropriate time to make a change,” said John Idol, chief executive officer of Donna Karan International. “Marchon has demonstrated an incredible ability to build large eyewear businesses. While we don’t anticipate many changes in pricing, consumers will see a fairly significant change in the look of the product immediately. The design will be more modern, and we expect to expand into other categories, like active eyewear, down the road.”
Marchon also produces licensed eyewear for Calvin Klein and Nautica.
Lantis, meanwhile, may be in line to pick up eyewear for the Movado Group. Industry sources said the two firms have been in discussions for some time and are close to finalizing a license. Efraim Grinberg, chief executive officer of Movado, acknowledged that the firm is considering eyewear for its Movado watch brand, but declined to elaborate.
Optical Shop of Aspen, retailers and also the maker of Matsuda and Barry Kieselstein-Cord eyewear, has developed Clayton Franklin, its first collection created in house.
“It’s really a complete revolution of antique frames and has some features we think are really innovative,” said Bill Barton, OSA president. “We’ve drawn inspiration from the past and melded it with a modern concept of shape using new bridge and temple treatments.”
Some of those treatments include frames with double temples where the rear piece folds up, other styles have the nose pad directly inserted into the bridge rather than welding it into the eyewire.
Each style can be made as a sunglass or a prescription frame. All the sunglasses are polarized.
There are styles with sterling silver accents and many blend metal frames with zyl plastic in spotted tortoise, smoke green, old horn or marbled wood. Retail prices are from $230 to $350. The line will be sold in a maximum of 150 doors this year.
OSA is also expanding to Europe. Last month, the firm acquired the Italian distributorship for Matsuda.]
Later this month, it will open a London office in trendy Covent Garden. That operation will handle wholesale sales for Clayton Franklin, Barry Kieselstein-Cord and Hiero eyewear.
Ray-Ban opened its first department store shop-in-shop Wednesday at the Macy’s West unit in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, Calif.
Though temporary, the 300-square foot installation, located in the ladies eyewear section of the ground-floor accessories department, will remain in place through the holidays. “It’s a big victory for the eyewear category that we can get this kind of dedicated space on the accessories floor,” said Jan Cory, divisional vice president, Ray-Ban Sun Optics. As reported, Ray-Ban was acquired in June by eyewear behemoth Luxottica.
Cory said the company was planning to open more temporary concept shops at other Macy’s West locations next spring and hopes to roll the idea out to other Federated stores around the country.
The entire range of Ray-Ban eyewear styles for women and men are included in the shop, which uses Ray-Ban’s traditional silver fuselage fixturing and red logos as well as displays of its advertisements, according to Cory.
“We’re taking our business to the next level,” Cory said. “We’ve added an extra fashion spin to the presentation because department store business is so important for us. It is designed to be different from our presence in the optical stores and is the prototype for other shops we hope to have.”
Cory said business at Macy’s West for Ray-Ban is up 60 percent over last year, adding that she expects to sell 100 pairs of glasses per week in the South Coast Plaza location.
Even quirky underwear maestro Joe Boxer has gotten a penchant for eyewear. Boxer Holdings Inc. has signed a licensing agreement with the Charmant Group to produce both sunglasses and prescription frames.
Sunglasses will make their debut at retail for spring, with ophthalmic frames slated for fall 2000. Distribution will be similar to that of the underwear, centered around major department and specialty stores, and to sunglass specialty chains.
Though pricing for the prescription frames is still to be determined, sunglasses will be moderately priced, retailing for under $100, according to a company spokeswoman. Charmant is also the maker of eyewear by Optical Affairs and Esprit.