MILAN — Minimalism is out — at least when it comes to eyewear.
Manufacturers at Mido were trying to lure buyers with bright colors; big, crystal-studded logos, and oversized plastic frames. Their move toward more fashionable styling is attracting interest: Data from the fair’s organizers showed a 46 percent jump in visitors for this year’s three-day fair compared with the four-day edition last year. The exhibition, held at the Milan fairgrounds, ran May 7-9.
Eyewear executives were upbeat about rising demand. Roberto Vedovotto, chief executive of Safilo, said prospects for 2004 are looking bright. Although the European market is still sluggish, he said the U.S. was doing well and Asia is particularly strong.
“After SARS, Japanese customers and tourists around the world are starting to travel,” he said.
Silvio Vecelio Reane, the ceo of IT Holding’s eyewear unit, Allison, said, “Based on the orders and indications of interest we have so far, I think we’ll end this year with growth that’s at a much higher rate than the 40 percent posted in the first quarter.”
Mirroring trends at Vision Expo, which took place in March in New York, eyewear makers took advantage of plastic’s versatility by layering and meshing different colors together, engraving it with lasers and, above all, turning to the runway for inspiration.
“For women’s fashion eyewear, there’s a lot of attention to brands, to luxury and to large shapes,” said Maurizio Marcolin, who oversees the style and licensing activities for Marcolin, the company that produces for the likes of Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli. “We are using a lot of rhinestones and semiprecious stones, but not in an over-the-top way that is vulgar,” he said.
Giorgio Armani — who last year switched camps to Safilo from Luxottica and single-handedly initiated a game of musical chairs for manufacturers and brands — drew on the nautical theme of his spring-summer collection, placing small anchors on his frames. Emporio Armani’s offerings resembled goggles in hues such as aquamarine and plum.
Prada played with bicolor and tortoiseshell combinations, creating tie-dye effects to match the recent trend in its apparel collection. Miu Miu frames were more square and girly, in tones such as bubble-gum pink and tangerine. Versace went Old Hollywood with oversized round lenses in black, tortoiseshell or opaque gray, and sporty with shield styles in cherry and lime green. Both Prada and Versace recently joined the Luxottica fold.
“There’s a demand for color, even if at the end of the day, black is sold the most,” noted Gualtiero Coppe, vice president of Allison U.S.A. He added that new licenses like Cerruti, John Richmond and Vivienne Westwood boosted the company’s first-quarter sales in the U.S. by 50 percent.
Cheery and summery accents abounded. Dolce & Gabbana used floral-print fabrics in some of its frames; Ferragamo wove straw flowers into the stems of its frames, and Valentino and Stella McCartney both chose butterflies to flutter about their lenses.
On a more sporty note, Alexander McQueen, a new entry on the eyewear scene, unveiled aviator shapes, some with wood trim.