The VisionExpo recently entered New York (at Javits) with thousands of vendors displaying millions of eyewear collections. Whether you are on a budget or able to spend thousands of dollars on spectacles, doing “face” has become more important than what you wear on your feet.
Eyewear covers everything for the eyes, from the correction of vision or protection from harmful UV lights to spectacles, lenses and sunglasses. Over the past few years eyewear has moved from being a purely functional necessity to a fashion statement.
Movie and rock stars, hotel, travel, tourism and other industry executives acknowledge that wearing the correct eyewear is as important to career success as using the right fragrance. When managers are “doing face” with clients, guests and peers, making a positive personal appearance can determine victory or defeat.
Frequent travelers are interested in presenting the right image as they move thorough airports and business class lounges by wearing fashionable eyewear. While jeans and t-shirts may be the universal travel attire, fashion statements (from children to seniors) have not disappeared entirely for Prada and Gucci have moved from chests and back-sides to our face and brands now prominently appear at eye level. Whether a traveler is wearing prescription glasses or sunglasses, eyewear is a convenient way to make a quick but positive first impression.
In 2016 the market value of the global eyewear market totaled approximatey $95 billion. Eyewear consumers span the globe and the product has become one of the most iconic consumer goods of the decade. Eyewear prices run from under $100 to $3 million (Liz Taylor Diamond Mask).
Diverse cultures, and demographic differences are not important; age and sight problems are not important; what determines the growing success of the eyewear industry is a desire for a presentable appearance that addresses trending fashions. In addition, lifestyle choices (especially the growth in outdoor adventure tourism), gaming consoles and exposure to technology (cell phones and tablets) combined with increased longevity, has increased the growth in global demand for eyewear products.
Between 61-64 percent of the population (approximately 177 million people in the USA) need vision correction (Jobson Research). In addition:
• Only 61 percent of adult population had an eye exam within the past year
• 61 percent are nearsighted (myopia)
• 31 percent are farsighted (presbyopia)
• An additional 12.2 million adults require vision correction but don’t seek assistance
• 70+ percent of the workforce requires vision correction
• Computers are the primary source of vision complaints in the workplace
• 1 out of every 4 children has a vision problem
• 48 percent of parents with children under 12 have never taken their child for an eye exam
• 80 percent of all learning takes place visually in the first 12 years
• 64 percent people wear eyeglasses
• 3 percent use prescription sunglasses only
• 20 percent use eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses
• 3 percent use eyeglasses, contact lenses and prescription sunglasses
• Average amount consumers plan to spend on next eyewear purchase $173
• 75 percent of eyeglass frames purchased for $150 or less
Eyewear is marketed in four main categories:
1. Prescription (Rx) eyeglasses
2. Plano sunglasses (sunglasses that are fitted with non-prescription lenses; not used for vision correction; mainly used for aesthetic purposes and protecting the eyes against harmful ultraviolet/UV rays)
3. Over-the-country (OTC) readers
4. Contact lenses
In 2015 plano sunglasses controlled 12 percent of the market. Polarized sunglasses are part of design mix as they offer benefits for water sports and fishing; however, non-polarized sunglasses dominate the market because of fashion.
Polarization is relevant for active target markets (i.e., cycling), while non-polarized plano sunglasses offer to darken vision and shield the eyes from harmful UV rays as well as protect eye from harsh glare. Premium buyers opt for scratch resistant, anti-reflective and UV protected eyewear products.
In 2014, the total vision care market in the US generated $34.5 billion and in 2015, plano sunglasses generated $218 million in sales. Italy’s Luxottica is the leading optical retailer in the USA with $2.53 billion in sales (2015). In January 2017, Luxottica and France’s Essilor agreed a 46 billion euro merger to create a global eyewear powerhouse. The company is responsible for brands that include: Ray-Ban, Persol, Oakley, Burberry, Polo Ralph Lauren, Versace, etc. On a global basis, the company had sales at approximately $8.84 billion.
A Material Girl
Eyewear is generally made from plastic or metal. Recent demand for various eye care products has been the result of a growing awareness of the harm from UV exposure and increased visual deficiencies. There has also been a growing awareness of the unique needs of children who require durability as well as fashion creating must-have frames that can standup to the active lifestyle of a child.
Curated Selection Stylistically Appropriate
After spending an entire day walking the aisles at the VisionExpo at Javits, I selected my absolute favorites that are definitely fashion-forward.
1. Matsuda. Made in Japan
For over 45 years, Matsuda has created eyewear from celluloid acetate, titanium, sterling silver, 18K solid gold and 22.5K gold plating. Celebrity owners include Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man 3), and Linda Hamilton (Sara Connor in Terminator 2).
2. Maybach. Made in Germany
Over 100 years ago, Wilhelm Maybach and his son Karl started a high-end automobile brand that has become a legend representing precise handcrafting and attention to detail and various elements that define their luxury cars. Maybach means luxury and quality that is timeless and discreet. With a focus on sustainability, the company avoids all raw materials that do not have a proven sound ecological source. Master artisans work with the finest leather, precious woods, natural horn from Asian water buffalo, pure gold and diamonds.
3. Shwood. Made in Portland, Oregon
In 2009, Eric Singer developed his eyeglass prototype from wood from the madrone tree, a pair of rusty cabinet hinges and salvaged lenses from a thrift store. His goal: Create a product that encompasses the individuality and uniqueness that can only be found in natural surroundings. Today, the eyewear is made from wood, acetate, titanium or stone and high-quality lenses for eye protection. The collection is cut, shaped, assembled, finished and shipped from its operation in Oregon.
4. Xavier Derome. Made in France
Derome parents were in the business of manufacturing spectacles and Xavier set up his studio on the banks of the Loire River, in Bracieux (1996). He is a pioneer in the process of adhesive bonding of thick multiple layers and his glasses join traditional craftsmanship with modern technology. Of special note – matching jewelry.
5. Ete. Made in France
Ete is a continuation of a family owned eyewear manufacturing family that can be traced back four generations. The tradition started in France (1924) when Gustave Rege-Turo hand-crafted spectacles using horn and tortoise shell as base materials. Today, raw materials include cellulose acetate (from the cotton plant). The techniques have been passed from father to son to daughter – who currently leads the organization and the Ete Lunettes collection.
6. Rigards. Made in Hong Kong
The name is adapted from the French word “regards” (look, glance) and a hand sign logo signifying a creative link of horn and eyewear. The Rigards mission is to rediscover treasures of eyewear with a focus on quality, style and comfort. Designs are original and nonconformist while respecting vintage influences for consumers who appreciate ingenuity and independence.
7. Sospiri. Made in Italy
The name is inspired by the Ponte dei Sospiri in Venezia. The collection represents Ottica Veneta’s signature luxury line of optical and sun wear that is inspired by the architecture, colors, textures, riches of Venice and the lace from Burano. The line was inspired as a tribute to the Venetian maestros and their craftsmanship. The frames are defined by their superior use of Swarovski crystals, light metals, Italian acetates and unique artistic embellishments. The line blends the Baroque period with Byzantine art.
8. Wissing. Made in Germany
The company started in 1953 and produces high quality optical frames in acetate. Noted for its variety of colors and forms of multilayer material offers unlimited possibility for color and design. Consumers can create their own style (including square, rectangle, round and cat-eye shapes) in either thick and chunky or thin and classic acetate. Select one color or a rainbow of colors in one frame.
9. Nanovista Optical for Children. Made in Canada
Nano frames are manufactured with exclusive and patented Siliflex materials and 35 percent lighter than acetate frames with a long lasting and durable finish. They are considered childproof and adaptable with manually adjusted temple tips. They also offer an adjustable mini-band and the possibility of exchange fixing systems between temples and headbands. Ophthalmologists, opticians, optometrists and pediatricians recommend Nano Baby frames for vision prescription for babies and early childhood.
10. La Loop (accessorize)
Fashion meets function at La Loop, a product created because there was nothing else to deal with the problem: Where did I put my glasses? Creative Director and CEO, Elizabeth Faraut started the company over 17 years ago when she was annoyed with having to dig around her handbag looking for her sunglasses, and/or losing them. Using 360 degree technology on the hinges of the loop, La Loop keeps glasses secure and in place without bending, twisting or falling out. The product appears in New York’s Museum of Modern Art and worn by Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and Heidi Klum
11. OYO Box
It is not “just a box,” it is a special place for your eyewear collection. Designed by Luba Stark and Michael Kriss, OYO was developed out of Stark’s frustration in not having a dedicated place for her glasses.
12. Keep them Clean
After spending hours selecting eyewear and hundreds (even thousands) of dollars purchasing the product, we frequently keep them clean by using Windex or spit. Experts claim this is totally not the way to keep optical or sunglasses clean and scratch-free. Tap water, dish detergent and a soft clean cotton towel will work (never use paper towels); however, for times when you are on the run, Kelas and pre-moistened towelettes will solve the problem of dirty or smudged lenses.
Seeing In the Future
Eyewear is now selected in the same way we choose the shoes we wear, the clothes we purchase and the hairstyles and colors we prefer. Eyewear has become a collectable; think shoes, jewelry and watches. Forget conventional wisdom that encourages you to look at the shape of your face and eye color – go with your instinct and try on new shapes, sizes and hues. You don’t wear one pair of shoes every day, for every occasion, why would you even think about treating something that is on your face with less consideration. A great collection of eyewear is not an indulgence – it is an investment.
© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.