FASHION-FORWARD AND FINICKY, JUNIOR SHOPPERS ARE ONE OF THE EYEWEAR INDUSTRY’S MOST SOUGHT-AFTER DEMOGRAPHICS.

Junior consumers are a fashionable, yet finicky group of shoppers. Influenced heavily by what they read in magazines and watch on television and on the silver screen, the longevity of a trend in the teen market is often short, since young fashionistas insist on donning the latest look.

Eyewear vendors, like others in the fashion industry who cater to teens, respond by continually churning out new styles — occasionally based on the chic looks of high-end designers paraded down runways.

But as those in the industry attested, teens are an unpredictable bunch.

“It’s hard to make things for teens. They’re fickle,” said Elliot Mizrahi, vice president of sales and marketing of New York-based Pan Oceanic Eyewear, which produces Hot Kiss eyewear and recently inked a licensing deal with Playboy. “To chase that market, you have to specialize, and you have to be in and out very fast. You have to be really tuned into it.”

Looking ahead towards summer, a key look should ease the minds of parents everywhere: Piercings are now cool on frames rather than the body.

Eyewear from the Esprit, Hang Ten, Seventeen and Mudd brands, features tiny rings that puncture the frame, conveying the pierced-eyebrow look. Elsewhere, such as at Hot Kiss, rimless glasses are as strong as ever. And throughout, lashings of brilliant color make this a fun time to be in the market for sunglasses.”The junior market doesn’t want to look junior,” said Rhona Hutton, vice president and designer of New York-based Colors in Optics, which produces eyewear for Steve Madden, as well as for Halston and Andrea Jovine. “They are influenced by what older people are wearing, so if you take that concept, you get a sophisticated junior.”

To that end, the company’s Steve Madden line — which wholesales between $15 and $30 and is sold at department stores, including Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Dillard’s — addresses the urban chic aesthetic that juniors aspire to don.

“Our customer is into fashion and is already ahead of the next trend,” said Hutton. “She wants to look like her older sister in law school or the one who goes clubbing. In some ways, that makes our job easier, as we’re not dealing with a baby mentality. That gives us more creative freedom.”

Hutton predicts the demise of the rhinestone frame and a return to clean, sleek looks: Smaller shields, lenses in gradient shades (green to gray, gray to blue, blue to green). She said plastic frames will be smaller than their adult Jackie O-esque counterparts. And the newest look is crystal clear: translucent colored frames with matching lenses, in colors including lavender, aqua and cherry red.

Given how much effort is going into giving junior consumers what they want, makers for the most part are happy to report that the market is thriving.

“We are just starting to see the potential,” said Laura Mays, vice president of product development at Lantis Eyewear, based in New York, which makes the Seventeen and Mudd lines and also just signed a licensing agreement with the Olsen sisters, Mary-Kate and Ashley. “This customer is very driven by what they think the trend is and is responding to what she sees in the designer arena.”

Jeannetta Bagley, a spokeswoman for Fantas-Eyes in New York, which produces eyewear for the Hello Kitty and Hang Ten brands, said retailers are no longer stocking a few hot styles, but are interested in selling a wide assortment of trendy fashion items.

“It used to be that if a store had five best-selling styles, they would take that and run with it,” she said. “Now, the market is running towards newness, and we need to constantly refresh the assortment.”

Eyewear by Roi, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., recently launched BUM X-treme for the junior market and is already seeing steady reorders, said president Susie Alofs.

She said the junior accessories market, like other segments of the junior market, often borrows trends from the high-end designer level. For the BUM X-treme line, which retails for $89.95 at specialty optical shops, that translates to sleek three-piece mounts, wooden frames and unusual shapes.

“Teens set a trend of their own, and the market evolves and changes like other markets. If you spend the time and energy to find out what they love, you can be successful,” Alofs said.

Jim Simon, vice president of New York-based CXD, the producer of eyewear for Boss Hugo Boss, Esprit and Elle, said as far as the junior market is concerned, eyewear is considered “a fashion statement and an image-builder.”

He added, “But you need to be on top of your business and know what the hottest performers are. It’s a young, fluid market. Displays have to be effective, colorful and playful to draw in a consumer, as this is usually an impulse purchase.”

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