NEW YORK — Whether they are for sun, work or sport, eyewear has truly become an essential fashion accessory. Though the eyewear industry isn’t exactly known for dramatic seasonal shifts, retailers are expecting some subtle changes come fall. Similar to what has happened in apparel, a return to femininity is anticipated for the season, as is a continuation of the demand for thin, lightweight and metal frames. Plastics are also on the rise, especially for the most forward stores with customer bases that jump on trends early.
Here, a sampling of what some key retailers from around the country expect for the season.
“The old stereotypes have been broken; people now realize they can wear glasses and still look great in public,” said Ruth Domber, owner of 1010 Optics, a three-store chain here, “Many view their eye glasses as another fashion statement, like a handbag or a tie or any other accessory, as well as a medical device, and they have a wardrobe of frames suitable for each segment of their lives — classic for work, polycarbonate for sport and sleeker, elegant looks for evening.”
Domber said androgynous looks are slowly disappearing, being replaced by graceful, feminine styles in relatively small-sized frames.
“Women are confident enough now to know it’s OK to dress like a woman without adversely affecting your position in the workplace — you can even wear pink frames to the office now!” Domber said.
For fall, she expects to see more interest in horizontal oval shapes and diagonal ovals that tilt ever so slightly upward, similar to the way blush is applied, which Domber said is particularly flattering for most women.
While metals continue to be strong, especially matte metals, she said that for some vendors, plastic frames are making a comeback.
“Vendors like L.A. Eyeworks and Lafont offer colored plastics in new zyle treatments that are striking in color, yet lightweight and slim,” she noted.
Other top-selling lines both now and for fall include Matsuda, Bada, Oliver Peoples, Paul Smith and Massimo sunglasses.
Domber also said chains have become a big part of her business, requiring weekly reorders.
“They are flying out of the store for men and women in every look from antique, beaded styles to silk shoelace types and even dreadlock looks — these aren’t your grandmother’s chains.”
New and trendy is the mantra throughout Miami’s South Beach district, and eyewear is no exception, according to Andrew Friedman, president of South Beach Eyes. The store on Ocean Drive pulls in local models, starlet wannabes, restaurant and hotel owners and both working and vacationing Europeans.
For sunglasses, the more dramatic the better, Friedman said.
“Big and plastic is hot now; we can’t seem to keep enough large-sized round, oval or wrap styles from Gucci or Cutler & Gross.”
Color has also been important, and Friedman said he expects the trend to continue. Black, white and mixes of the two colors have been dominant, but bright blue, yellow and red have been coming on strong from vendors, including Alain Mikli, Jean Paul Gaultier and Yoji Yamamoto.
Small, thin and light is still the overwhelming trend for optical frames, Friedman said.
“Modified cat-eye shapes are great for all those high cheek bones we see here, from companies like Kata and Morgenthal Fredericks, and Nineties geek shapes from Isaac Mizrahi and L.A. Eyeworks have been strong in plastics.”
Friedman said metals account for nearly 80 percent of all his optical frame sales, with most in bright or antiqued silver or gold from vendors including Kata, Morgenthal Fredericks, Yoji Yamamoto, Red Rose and Saki.
His newest line, called Takumi, has received a lot of attention because it includes foldable magnetic clip-ons that really stay on.
J.J. Poole Opticians, New Brunswick, N.J., services a customer base that is a mix of university students and executives from nearby corporate headquarters. Ruth Hansen, the store’s manager, said her clientele is unusually forward and always looking for new eyewear lines.
“For a long time, our customers were really into round frames, but now most are into ovals. The newest thing is a much more angular frame,” Hansen noted.
She said that plastics are making a comeback and noted that tortoise and black remain the leading color combinations for the category.
Hansen pointed to Club L.A., Gruen Controverse and Indian as some of the latest lines driving business for the store, and also said that some designer lines, like DKNY, remain hot.
Oval shapes and metals are also expected to drive business for Cohen’s Fashion Optical, a 27-store chain here. Bruno Assante, store manager of its downtown location, servicing the Wall Street and city hall areas, said one reason for the demand for ovals is that many consumers already own the classic round styles and are looking for something different.
In addition to ovals, Assante said many women are interested in modified cat-eye shapes as an alternative to what they wear everyday. Key lines include Pro Design and Genny.
Stainless steel is still a driving force for metal frames, Assante said, with Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein and Red Rose being the leading lines in the category.
Although he said there has been some renewed interest in plastic frames from his customers recently, few have been adventurous enough to stray from traditional tortoise or black styles.
For sunglasses, the chain’s most popular lines include Moschino and Persol, largely for their more substantial looking frames, traditional status looks and varied inlays, like the small heart-shaped inlays in the Moschino line.
Even LensCrafters has received an injection of fashion. Buoyed by its acquisition last year by Italian powerhouse manufacturer Luxottica, the company assortment now includes deeper penetration of designer and high-performance lines. This has boosted business so far this year and bodes well for fall, according to Jane Wolfe, associate vice president of frame buying for the chain.
“We’ve really had an influx of more fashion; lines like Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani and the new Vogue line are now being distributed to all stores,” said Wolfe.
For fall, she said she expects to see a continuation of the key spring trends — glamour, updated classics and street-adapted wraps — in both sun and ophthalmic areas, but stressed that their customer generally isn’t willing to take as much of a fashion risk with their everyday eyewear.
The glamour trend includes black plastic frames, often trimmed with gold for sunglasses, as in the YSL or Genny lines, for example.
Updated classics focus on day-to-day looks, but in some newer shapes and in different metals. Wolfe said modified wrap styles work in this category, as do those styles with a side shield or half moon that protects the wearer’s eyes and is also fashionable. Metals are strong in this trend for LensCrafters, with matte pewters, bronze and black finishes the strongest sellers, due to the influence of the DKNY and Donna Karan lines.
Lens color is key for the wrap category, with monochromatic looks like gray green, iron or gunmetal grays and black mirrored lens being popular now and expected to continue into fall.

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