NEW YORK — For the past few seasons, metal-framed aviators and rimless shields have dominated the main floor and fueled sunglass sales.
Now, the pendulum has swung and plastics are coming back into focus.
“Big plastics are the antithesis of that rimless look,” said Blake Kuwahara, creative director for REM Eyewear, which holds the Jones New York Eyewear license. “It’s just like in fashion. If long skirts are in, then next it’s short skirts.”
At Vision Expo East, which ended here March 28, sunglass companies showed oversize plastic styles, as well as new variations for their late spring and fall collections.
The response, thus far, has been improved sales in the sunglasses category.
“I think [last year] we were up against really rainy weather,” Luxottica’s vice president of sales for department stores Jan Cory explained. “Last year was a bit more uncertain time with the war. People are calmer now. Business is great.”
Oliver Peoples included a large selection of oversize tortoiseshell frames, but modernized them in shades like yellow.
“It’s all about that Kate Moss glamour,” said Larry Leight, designer and co-founder, of one of his famous clients. “It’s the essence of what this season is all about — not sporty glamour but fun glamour. Strong but mysterious.”
Lenses were made in more neutral colors such as chocolate brown, hunter green, gray and wine, back from the brights that were so popular in the brand’s best-selling aviator.
But it’s not just the oversized Jackie O. look that firms are going for. At the show, Kata, which is owned by Legacie, introduced its first plastics collection called Kawai. The line, geared toward a younger, more fashion-forward customer, makes use of a patented heat-fusion technology wherein two layers of plastic are melted into one. Most of the frames are two-toned with floral and geometric patterns fused onto the exterior or interior of the temples.
Whether with flashy adornment on the outside or covert designs on the inside, temples got the special treatment. With the return of plastics, they have become thicker, which also allows space for embellishment. Firms like Judith Leiber adorned temples with colorful and intricate crystal patterns.
Others showed plastics with laser-cut patterns, another trend not only on temples but allover frames. Floral and abstract designs were popular. Michael Kors took it one step further, giving his green plastic frames a mock-croc look.
Regardless of all the innovation, firms can’t deny that there are only so many shapes that look good on a face, and aviators and shields have become two of them. Both styles are still selling like crazy.
Many firms showed a modified aviator in plastic, with white as a popular color. The inspiration for the style, many agreed, is a retro après-ski look.
“You can get two to three years out of a trend [in eyewear],” designer and retailer Robert Marc explained. “You’d have to be from another planet to not know rimless shields were a big trend. But the style is still selling and we’re still seeing it.”
Firms like Christian Roth and Prada, offered wrap lenses with metal frames that crisscross at the nose.
Robert Marc, with Coach’s Reed Krakoff, In Style senior accessories editor Alice Kim and VH-1 stylist Pilar Chira Steinborn, spoke at a panel held March 26 by International Vision Expo called “Focus on Eye Style.” The speakers discussed spring trends such as citrus colors and tortoiseshell frames and, for fall, embellishment. Krakoff addressed the challenge an increasing number of fashion brands are facing as they try to tackle the eyewear category.
“Eyewear is the hardest category to translate directly,” he said. “It’s not how to get the SoHo [bag] buckle on the temple, but what would a woman carrying a SoHo bag wants to wear. You don’t get any points if the customers says ‘Well, it’s ugly, but it matches the bag so I’ll take it.’”