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NEW YORK — Marc Jacobs has set its sights on the entry-level sunglass business.

A year after launching high-end shades at prices ranging from $230 to $350, the American fashion house is introducing its first group of sunwear for the diffusion Marc by Marc Jacobs label.

The 24 styles will retail in Marc by Marc Jacobs boutiques, better department stores and specialty retailers beginning this November in the U.S.; international distribution is to follow within the year. The line will be priced from $80 to $120.

“We are a lot smarter about sunglasses now that we have launched our collection sunglasses,” said Marc Jacobs president Robert Duffy. “We put a lot of the collection glasses in the Marc by Marc Jacobs stores, and they sold well, but not everybody can spend those prices on glasses. This gives something more tailored to that Marc by Marc Jacobs customer.”

Safilo Group SpA, which owns the license to produce both Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs eyewear, expects the new line will make up 10 percent of its sales to department stores in the U.S. While the Padua, Italy, firm did not specify what percentage department store sales are to its overall sales here, Safilo posted total sales in the U.S. of 231.5 million euros, or $292 million at current exchange, for the six months ending June 30. Internationally, turnover was 605.4 million euros, or $764 million, for the six-month period. Safilo also holds the licenses for Emporio Armani, Giorgio Armani, Diesel, Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, Gucci, Christian Dior, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent, among others.

“The Marc by Marc Jacobs line offers a great name with incredible styling and great value to the consumer. That’s a good formula in this business,” said Mark Ugenti, vice president of sales at Safilo.

Ed Jankowski, chief operating officer of Solstice Marketing Concepts, the privately owned parent of Solstice Sunglass Boutiques, said the retailer has been doing a robust business with Marc Jacobs sunglasses.

“Marc Jacobs is a strong brand for us,” said Jankowski. “It accounts for about 3 percent of our business. To do that well in just under a year is very encouraging. I think the Marc by Marc Jacobs line, however, is even more exciting in terms of its potential. We don’t have a big current fashion-designer entry-level brand. I think it will appeal to that customer who is a little bit younger and loves and understands the brand, but wasn’t able to afford a collection sunglass.”

This story first appeared in the July 31, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Jacobs’ Duffy said the new frames use many of the shapes that were successful in the collection range. Key silhouettes include plastic and metal aviators, rimless shields and oversize round plastic styles. Iconic motifs — like the Marc by Marc Jacobs jumbled logo and buttons, snaps and studs that are translated from the label’s ready-to-wear, handbags and footwear — decorate the sunglasses’ temples and arms. Colors range from basic browns and blacks to signature burgundies, blues and olives. Many of the lenses pick up on colors, with tints like purple. Gradient lenses appear throughout the assortment.

Safilo said it will round out the Marc by Marc Jacobs sunglass line with an ophthalmic collection that it hopes to launch at Vision Expo East in March and will target to optical shops.

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