METAL URGES

Byline: WENDY HESSEN

NEW YORK — Be it stainless steel, copper, gold, silver, pewter or even brown, the leading trend in both sunglasses and ophthalmic frames is pure metal, metal and more metal.
Now that technology has come far enough to allow even the strongest-prescription lenses to be fitted into thin metal frames, it’s a look that can be worn by everyone. In addition to durability, metal frames are also available at relatively affordable prices, addressing the ongoing consumer demand for value at a price.
In addition to all the metals, there are plenty of other things for retailers to focus on, much of which can be seen at Vision Expo, which opens its East Coast edition here on March 31 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Among them:
Clip-ons. From designer to moderate, many companies are adding clip-ons to their assortments in greater percentages than ever before.
The emerging demand for serious sports performance eyewear for everyday use, often by people who aren’t participating in sports.
Oversized plastic frames reminiscent of Hollywood’s glamour days, often with metal accents.
Color is still important, especially since the vibrant hues previously seen only in plastics are now available in metalized versions.
Riding the metal wave for some time now is Luxottica, the Italian firm with U.S. headquarters in Port Washington, N.Y. “We don’t ever expect to see plastic coming back to what it was,” said Henry Sand, vice president of sales and marketing. “Our proportion of plastic to metal still favors metal, and we believe it hasn’t peaked yet. Only the ultra-high fashion boutiques will go with plastic.”
A key theme in Luxottica’s dozen collections now is that of super-thin styles made of what they have labeled Luxlite — a new material that enables them to carve out thinner profiles than ever before.
As for size, Sand noted that “smaller is still big,” although shapes are evolving from rounder frames to shallow ovals and geometrics like octagonals and rectangulars — what they call new vintage shapes.
Clips have been added to Luxottica’s most popular metal styles in all of their collections that include, among others, Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and Briko, the high tech performance line. Sand added that Luxottica will feature more sports performance eyewear than ever before at Vision Expo and will launch apres-ski styles, as well.
Sunglass clip-ons, the biggest trend for Marchon & Marcolin, is helping to spur optical sales, as well as nourish its growing sunglass business, according to Donna Rollins, director of marketing.
“We’re adding clip-ons to nearly 70 percent of our new styles in the Calvin Klein collection and also including them in the best-selling styles from the Marchon and Flexon lines,” Rollins said.
Exclusive to its Marchon line, the company is also launching a “quick change cable.” Rollins explained that it is an interchangeable temple that unlatches, enabling the wearer to go from a comfort cable temple that wraps around the ear to a traditional skull temple.
Metals are even important to its Fendi line, which features big, glamorous, plastic frames, but relies on metal accents to highlight the line’s whimsical side. Bamboo and sundial motifs will be predominant at Vision Expo, Rollins said.
New advertising campaigns for Calvin Klein and Marchon will also make their debuts in New York during Vision Expo. Models Christy Turlington and Mark Vanduloo are featured wearing sunglasses in the Calvin Klein ads, and Vendela is the 1995 point-of-purchase model for the Marchon line. Vendela will also make a personal appearance on Friday, the opening day of the show.
The Nautica collection, which also features a high percentage of metals, is relatively new, having only been launched at last August’s Vision Expo in California.
Chris Shyer, director of marketing, said that the line’s department and specialty store distribution has added a whole new direction for Zyloware, its Long Island City, N.Y.-based licensee.
Until now, the company has focused on mostly optical lines, including Sophia Loren, Stetson, Gloria Vanderbilt and Pierre Balmain.
The Nautica collection of 14 styles comes in about 40 sizes and unusual colors that are appropriate for men and women.
“We’ve been successful at introducing colors that men will find wearable, like our matte blue,” said Shyer.
Most of the line offers sunglass clip-ons with polarized optical-quality lenses, which are great for beach and boat wear. And for the first year of distribution, the company has created an eyeglass holder that is included with a purchase of sunglasses. It incorporates a yellow rubber boat float, similar to what boat keys are kept on.
In addition to small metal frames, Eric Domege, co-owner of Optical Affairs/Christian Roth, believes that glamour combined with protection and space-age design is very important now.
The company, which will show its collections in its showroom here, will launch a new wraparound frame made of aluminum — what Domege calls “a mutation of a sport look with a ski mask.”
Although a very strong statement, Domege said this look is “great for city wear or the beach. It’s very light and comfortable and covers a big part of the sensitive parts of your face.”
Known for its cutting-edge designs, Domege is in favor of the oversized plastic looks that have recently been featured in magazines, even though he knows that they aren’t necessarily for the mainstream.
“Still, we’ve experienced good sell-throughs already — women want to feel glamorous again.”
Other forward looks that Domege cited as key include blue lenses, for their protective qualities; crystal and clear frames with reflective lenses, and an emerging demand for basic, clean styles in slightly heavier plastics in tortoise and black, that recall nerdy Fifties looks.

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