VISION EXPO GIVES AN EYEFUL
Byline: Rose Apodaca Jones
LAS VEGAS — The eyewear industry is set to see another year through rose-colored lenses.
Also make that apricot, blue, lemon and a rainbow of other shades, as excitement over the fashion color trend dominated the International Vision Expo West at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, Sept. 14-17.
Even expo organizers were in the pink as attendance broke previous records for the Western edition, which moved to Las Vegas last year. Attendance increased to 16,736, up 3,000 from last year. A total of 525 exhibitors — 75 more than 1999 — presented their holiday and spring lines in booths that were bigger and more distinct than ever.
“Some of our major exhibitors experienced shows that were among the best they ever had — West and East — in terms of sales written,” said Tracy Flaherty Levine, director of marketing. She added that the expo would take over a second floor of the hall next year.
From runway shows of Gucci and Valentino eyewear and ready-to-wear at the Safilo mega-booth to the swanky martini bar of upstart Lazi, no longer is it enough to have great product.
Indeed, several new and established companies opted to launch lines here.
After a three-year hiatus, Christian Roth is back, as reported last week in WWD, with a selection of featherweight titanium bug-eyes and slimmer zyl rectangles that live up to designers Roth and Eric Domege’s reputation.
“We’re so excited to have your name back in the store,” enthused Stephan Goldberg, owner of the three City Optix shops in San Francisco, to Roth. “This looks like the future of eyewear. There’s something for each of my stores.” Roth declined to comment on first-year sales expectations for the inaugural line, wholesale priced from $70 to $150, but shared that the company, now a division of the Charmant Group — which also produces Hugo Boss — is targeting 600 stores split evenly among North America, Asia and Europe.
Lazi is a line of hip specs that heavily borrows sporty touches from the extreme-sports presence of designer Jim Lazarides — as well as Australia’s past — as a co-founder of Arnette. Among the martini shakers and red lamps, Lazi showcased the Proteus System, a three-in-one model featuring three colored frames — a modern cat-eye, a round and a rectangular shape — that pop onto wire rims. The Proteus System, retailing at $325, fits in a glossy black box.
“Eventually we’ll offer more parts to pop on and change the look,” said Lazarides, who owns the line with Scottish expat Glen Fraser Ross. Although the Los Angeles-based company began shipping less than a month before the show to two dozen doors, it began advertising one year ago in Paper, Spin, GQ, Marie Claire and Elle.
From upscale to mass, vendors offered colored lenses and colored frames. Large-scale lenses also prevail through next season.
This summer’s colored shield returns for fall with rims at Christian Dior, produced by the Safilo Group, the Padua, Italy-based giant that also makes eyewear for Polo Ralph Lauren, Nine West, Fossil, Valentino and Gucci. Another oversize Christian Dior mask graduates from plum to orange.
“Christian Dior is going through a revival. We’ve been getting requests for more — the collection has tripled in size. Now all of the bigger department store accounts are demanding it,” said a Safilo spokeswoman.
Safilo also unveiled an oversize, semi-rimless butterfly for Gucci in apricot and teal among other statement pieces.
At Marchon, from Fendi and Calvin Klein to Nautica and Nike, scale and color also ruled. Fashion-colored lenses were the most popular sellers, noted reps from Donna Karan Eyewear, which offered its own modern take on a Jackie O with Indian blue and ruby lenses. Nearby at the DKNY booth, pink and gold aviator-inspired frames interested buyers.
“L.A. and Vegas reps are going crazy for colors,” said Lynn Tillman with Calvin Klein, holding up a gold and plum duo-tone model.
Even Giorgio Armani, whose “eyewear has always been conservative” is venturing into color, said Jean Scott, Luxottica vice president of product development for the U.S. market. Lens gradations of blue to apricot and purple to rose appear in a squeezed teardrop version of the aviator at Anne Klein, shown with a brushed gold frame.
The rush on that other fashion trend extended to eyewear. “We did gold with almost everything, and everybody’s picking up on it,” said Fendi rep Michelle Jones, noting the line had a 50 percent increase in business at Vision Expo West from a year ago.
IC Optics is large on frames and luxe in its Versace line, many with the new Medusa logo embedded under clear and colored acrylic. Oversize aviators, snakeskin-wrapped and gold-studded frames as well as colored lenses reflect the attitude in Versace rtw, noted IOC president Sanford Hutton. “There’s a lot of energy, style and detail.”
Over at Marcolin, prototypes of the “Linda,” Chloe’s yet-to-be-released encore to the specs detailed with a crystal heart on the lens, shift the symbol to heart-shaped screw heads. Nails are also tipped with crystals on a pair of laminated dual-colored plastics.
Another Marcolin line, Dolce & Gabbana, promised the next wave of large, colored shields in January. D&G will introduce a limited-edition line in time for Valentine’s Day, with crystal-studded temples spelling out “Love,” “Forever” and the heart and star symbols. In the Galleria, an area dedicated to high-end and forward design, traffic was constant — even in booths where there was no eyewear at all, such as Kate Spade, the latest Safilo license, scheduled to launch next March. An image booth stocked with Spade’s signature handbags and footwear served to educate strangers to the name, said a spokeswoman.
The Christian Roth booth also was absent of any eyewear. Interested attendees had to trek up to a suite in the adjoining Venetian Hotel. And Jason Kirk of Kirk Originals patiently waited for his collection to arrive from his London studio on the first day, sharing images and a Web site with buyers of his retro-tweaked eyewear instead.
The dungeon-like booth of Chrome Hearts, licensed to L.A. Eyeworks earlier this year, caught the eyes of many passersby who trod lightly on the leather skins covering the floors.
Sterling silver details and ghost writing on the lenses — breathe and discover the brand name and an expletive — charmed attendees checking out the line, which wholesales from $235 to $280.
At the other end of the strip, in the dignified Four Seasons, several designer lines escaped the trade-show chaos for the serenity of a private suite.
In a 39th-floor room, Frederic Beausoleil welcomed clients from 8 a.m. until nearly 9 p.m. The France-based designer said the Pop line of seven colored-lens glasses for every day of the week that he introduced in April was “doing fabulous.” A new triple-laminate frame in blue, white and peach with a round temple window was also moving well, he said.
Down the hall, the launch of the 300-piece Prada ophthalmic collection was drawing as much interest as the limited-edition resort-holiday sunglasses, which served as the company’s follow-up to its March eyewear debut. The generously sized statement frames were shaped like squares, swollen aviator tears and ovals. Double-laminated frames featured an ivory front with an olive-green lining.
The limited collection, available in November, is to satisfy requests for a holiday line, said director of sales at EID USA Frederic Ferrant. “There’s a feeling of la dolce vita with these big frames. I also call it the ‘Sopranos’ look.”