Walk into Selfridges’ new eyewear department and you’ll see a noticeable change in the eyewear market. Amongst the acres of grey terrazzo and perfectly lit vanity mirrors, you’ll discover 2,200 eyewear styles from 50 brands, some costing nearly £8000.
This is eyewear placed in equal importance to the other accessories in Selfridges’ refreshed accessory department - the largest in the world at 60,000 sq ft and costing in excess of £300m. Sitting alongside the luxury handbags and designer boutiques, it illustrates the new focus from luxury goods companies on their eyewear product. It is no longer the rather side-lined licensing cash-cow it once was and as such, is no longer taken for granted.
Left - Selfridges' new eyewear department on the ground floor
Much like the perfume business, niche players have entered the eyewear market, offering difference and quality. The designer brands are sitting up and taking notice and while Selfridges’ new eyewear department is run by the Luxottica, owner of Ray-Ban and many other designer licenses, it hasn’t completely monopolised it with its own brands.
New brands to Selfridges include Fak by Fak and Project Produkt, while others, such as Grey Ant, Retrosuperfuture and Thiery Lasry, have created exclusive styles for the space.
The eyewear market is actually experiencing the reverse of what is happening in other categories. Luxury brands are putting more focus and input into their product and increasing the quality and workmanship in order to compete. At the same time, thanks to brands like Gucci, eyewear has become an integral part of a look or outfit and it’s the bolder, the better ethos, right now, that is making eyewear sales rocket.
“The industry's certainly going through a time of flux. At one end you've got the old guard consolidating - Luxottica and Essilor being the obvious, gargantuan example. Then at the other, you've got a whole bunch of new own-branded entrants. And then in the middle, you've got the high street multiples (who still collectively control over 70% of the market in the UK).” says Tom Broughton, Founder of Cubitts.
It wasn’t long ago the branded eyewear market was a duopoly dominated by the Italian giants of Safilo and Luxottica. In 2014, the luxury conglomerate, Kering, eyeing the potential of cutting out of the middle man in their eyewear business, terminated the licenses with Safilo for brands including Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Saint Laurent.
Right - Gucci has really lead the way in pushing mainstream experimental styles
“To maximise the development of its brand portfolio, Kering decided to internalise the value chain for its eyewear activities, from product creation and development to supply chain management, sales and marketing.” says its press release.
“Through this project, Kering is putting in place an innovative way of managing its eyewear operations, which will lead to significant value-creation opportunities and enable the group to fully capture the sheer growth potential of its houses in this category, in a global market which is sizeable and in which the high-end segment is enjoying substantial growth.” it says.
Today, ‘Kering Eyewear’ designs, develops and distributes eyewear for Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, McQ, Boucheron, Pomellato, Brioni, Christopher Kane and Puma.
Kering understand the profits and growth to be seen in eyewear and by taking it in-house, it cuts out a cost plus adds control. The results have seen more distinctive styles imbued with the individual brands’ DNAs. It is lead by Roberto Vedovotto who was previously CEO of the Safilo Group.
“For the last couple of decades, 'designer' eyewear has really meant branded eyewear. And so those who controlled access to those brands - big players like Luxottica and Safilo - controlled much of the market. But I think there's a general change in consumer appetite for more independent brands, particularly those mono-brands who just try do thing one thing exceptionally well. Our old friend the internet has meant that it's also possible for small start up brands to sell directly to end consumers, rather than be encumbered by the traditional wholesale model.” says Broughton.
Alistair Benson, Managing Director Eyesite Opticians, says “The big fashion houses are, now, more concerned with producing distinctive eyewear with better quality that adds to the success of their other product lines. We saw Céline remodel their already best selling ‘Shadow’ piece, introducing new and improved hinges and additional colours. An example of an already proven and successful formula being upgraded just to ensure it stays at the front of the pack.
“As competition grows, fashion houses inevitably need to ensure they are producing more innovative products to stand out. Another reason for this is the rise of niche/cult brands and start-ups; take the jazz inspired Black Eyewear for example. All-in-all, it makes for a much more stimulating market that benefits today’s highly engaged consumer, who now have more choice than ever before. From our own perspective, as a retailer, we have had to adapt to this change, responding quickly to shifts in certain trends and the overnight rise of new cult brands to ensure our own customers have everything they need and more.”
Left - One of the most famous eyewear wearers - Elton John inspiring the Gucci catwalk
Gordon Ritchie, MD of Kirk Originals, says “Recent years has seen the emergence of smaller niche eyewear labels appearing that offer handmade, up to bespoke quality, eyewear collections and a number of people like ourselves are making in England.
“It is driven by smaller niche players and I think this is a reaction against the handful of huge corporations that now dominate the global eyewear business and between them actually produce pretty much everything with a "big" brand name on it.” he says.
Niche brands are offering more artisan and limited product, but the big boys have recognised this and are moving into this area. The margins on eyewear are large and there’s everything to play for. Luxottica, reported a 2 percent rise in 2017’s sales to 9.16 billion euros and Safilo had full-year sales totalling 1.05 billion euros.
Designer fashion brands have made eyewear an integral part of their fashion collections. These flamboyant styles have resonated with consumers especially with its entry price points. But, smaller, niche players are offering individuality which attracts many consumers to well designed and made eyewear.
“I think this is a result of people growing in confidence in expressing themselves, probably helped along by them being exposed to so many images on a daily basis on Instagram. Instagram can be inspiring but also allows you to feel you’re not the only one pushing the boundaries a little bit by being bold in your choices in colours and styles.” says Ritchie.
“I think people will increasing see a pair of spectacles or sunglasses as a defining piece of their wardrobe, rather than merely a medical accoutrement to help them see.” says Broughton.
People are buying many more pairs to suit different outfits and moods. Add in the recent fashion of coloured lenses and it broadens the scope of choice. “We believe that people will continue to look for more individuality in their eyewear, too. Much like other countries in Europe, we expect increasing numbers of customers to buy 3–5 sets of frames each year in order to mix it up and achieve a different look whenever they want.” says Mary-Frances Kelly, Marketing Manager at Optical Express.
“Fashion in general has become more experimental, and people are realising that they can achieve a different look with a certain style or colour of frame. And it’s not just the under-30’s who are fashion conscious – across the generations, we’re more style-aware about everything, including glasses, than ever before.” says Kelly.
This is something really positive. It reflects a thriving market. The big brands have recognised the threat and, wanting to hold onto the many hundreds of million of dollars involved, are focussing on directional styles and quality. This leads to better product and choice for everybody. They have, thankfully, realised that simply putting different names on the same glasses just isn’t enough anymore. Add the maximalist mood in fashion and everybody wanting to be an Elton John or Iris Apfel, then you have a very bold, experimental and receptive market. Let’s hope this type of thinking enters other sectors of the luxury business.
Okay, so nobody buys anything, but London is the city of ideas. It's the city of newness and also the historical home of menswear. It's the benchmark, it's the tradition and it's the craziness.
London Fashion Week Men's starts tonight.
ICEBERG: To describe British designer, James Long’s Iceberg collection as ‘commercial’ is to acknowledge the shift in fashion. Post-Gucci, anything bright, standout and clashing is commercial.
This had Long’s signature play with knitwear, but with Italian manufacturing polish. You can picture each and everyone of these clothes hanging on a rail in a store tomorrow.
The fascination with cartoon characters was there, there was a mash-up between F1 and Snoopy, and while the sportswear fashion cycle is finishing (soon!), there are plenty of takers for comfort still.
Iceberg, as a brand, hasn’t been over exposed in the logo/branding segment yet so much to play with. Lots of full look colour and, with a big name like 'Iceberg', it's not a brand to disappear into the background in.
ASOS - ASOS showed a teaser SS19 collection inspired by cult classics such as Blade Runner, Tron and Total Recall. Think shine, see-through and bold colours.
TOPMAN - While no clothes, it was a return to Soho of old with a party at the Phoenix Artist Club. You can picture Francis Bacon down here throwing a few drunken obscenities at the bar staff. I still have a lot of affection for Topman and I'm excited about their new AW18 collection.
What did TheChicGeek wear? Credits - Shirt - Paolo Pecora, Linen Trousers - Basic Rights, Shoes - Dune, Sunglasses - Kaleos
See LFWM Day 2 - here
David Morris, Senior Footwear Buyer, MRPORTER.COM
“Takahiromiyashita TheSoloist offers exceptional fits and expert attention to detail, and this cardigan is the perfect example. It’s been intarsia-knitted in Japan from smooth silk in a monochrome palette meaning it can be layered or worn with just a t-shirt - a versatile SS18 piece.”
Left - Takahiromiyashita TheSoloist - Slim-Fit Argyle Silk Zip-Up Cardigan - £1365
“Arc’teryx are specialists in performance clothing without the compromise in aesthetics and this shell coat from their ‘Veilance' line is the perfect lightweight spring addition. Made in Canada, it is water and wind-resistant to see you through spring’s tempestuous weather and if the sun does decide to appear you can simply fold it into its own internal pocket.”
Left - Arc’teryx - Veilance Monitor SL Packable Water-Resistant Shell Coat - £560
“Nothing gets you excited for summer more than a new pair of sunglasses and this handmade, round frame pair by Cutler And Gross are in my wish list. They have a timeless appeal which will leave you sipping pina coladas in style.”
Below - Cutler And Gross - Round-Frame Acetate Sunglasses - £310
“Sandals are key trend for SS18, these from Prada are amongst my favourites which we have to offer at MR PORTER. Made from durable black webbing on a contoured leather insole, these will look great with either a smart slim pair of trousers or a pair of well-fitting shorts.”
Left - Prada - Leather Trimmed Webbing Sandals - £415
“This Our Legacy silk yellow shirt has been dyed to give it a washed out, lived in feel, another key trend for SS18. It’s my top pick to master understated style for the warmer months ahead.”
Left - Our Legacy - New Silk Shirt - £190
Every man should be buying a silk shirt this season, read more why here
A strange distraction robbery leaves a Stockholm art museum director chasing his wallet and phone while dealing with the woke environment of a contemporary art museum and his family life.
Winner of the Palme d’Or, last year, at Cannes, The Square’s most memorable scene is the disturbing man/artist playing an unpredictable ape, but I’ll let you find that out for yourself.
Left - Artist 'Julian' in a Q&A from the film The Square
Anyway, on the style stakes, it’s the visiting artist, Julian, played by Dominic West, who is the sartorial inspiration in a scene set in the museum where he’s there to discuss his work. An audience member with Tourette’s syndrome makes it a surreal moment.
Right - Artist Julian Schnabel which some say was the inspiration for the character
Wearing blue pyjamas, a navy double breasted jacket and yellow lensed glasses he bears a striking resemblance to American painter and film maker, Julian Schnabel.
Left - Derek Rose - Men’s Classic Fit Piped Pyjamas - £95
Sky blue cotton pyjamas worn out of the bedroom shows an easy confidence and the yellow lenses on the glasses adds the artistic element. It’s hip to be square!
Left - Reiss - Carlotta B Double-Breasted Blazer - £325
Below - Sunglasses - Paul Smith - £177, available at Sunglass Hut
Left - Sunglasses - Lunetterie Generale - £375
Left - Vans - Authentic Shoes - £47
Below - Dominic West in full 'Julian' PJ look
There was an American brand - Brashy Studio - who got a lot of online flak, recently, for selling safety glasses as a fashion accessory and charging $25 for the privilege. They cost £1.42 at B&Q BTW.
But, they were definitely onto something as clear frames and light lenses are the way to go this summer. I saw this pair from Korean brand Gentle Monster, who are set to open a store in London shortly, and there’s something one part chemistry teacher and one part Gucci catwalk that I love about them.
While they have that safety glasses vibe they’re far cooler than that and the lenses have full UV protection. Experiment!
Left & Below - Gentle Monster - Afix 02 - $310
More SS18 eyewear inspo? Try The Hamburglar Sunglasses here
I haven’t seen McDonald’s Hamburglar for years, maybe he’s been keeping a low profile, anyway, he’s the inspo. for this season’s shades.
Left & Below - Illesteva - Vinyl - £195
These thick, oval 'Vinyl' frames from Illesteva - the name is a take on the hip-hop expression 'Illest evuh' - are the perfect stylish disguise. Today’s sunglasses are all about making you feel like a character and orange
lenses not only brighten your day, they also add a retro, mysterious touch to your look.
Right - McDonald's Hamburglar - Where has he been?
Founded by designers Daniel Silberman and Jus Ske in 2010, Illesteva is grounded in their backgrounds of music, fashion and photography. New York-based, their eyewear is crafted in premium materials like titanium, buffalo horn and bamboo.
These are firmly on TheChicGeek's down-low SS18 Hot List.
See another character inspiring TheChicGeek this season The Beetlejuice Striped Suit
More eyewear inspo? The Chemistry Teacher Shades
We seem to be fixated on the year 1983. First came Stranger Things and now, the new film by Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name.
Left - Getting rave views - Call Me By Your Name - The new film by Luca Guadagnino, who also made I am Love & A Bigger Splash
A love story between Elio and Oliver, Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, respectively, it is an Italian summer romance featuring the power brands of the decade.
Right - The film's wardrobe was very casual 80s brands such as Lacoste & Polo Ralph Lauren
From Polo Ralph Lauren shirts, clothing the arrogant and preppy Oliver, to the striped Lacoste polos on the young and loving Elio.
Mix it with a bit of 80s Italian disco and copious amounts of drawstring swim shorts and you have your next warm weather wardrobe sorted. A future classic, it’s a peach of a film!
Left - B.D. Baggies - Bradfort Oxford Butt Down-Pocket - £73
Below - Ray Ban - Original Wayfarer Classic - £127
Left - Lacoste - Men’s Lacoste Regular Fit Striped Pima Cotton Polo - £79
Below - Boardies - Overlay Shortie Swim Shorts - £50
Persol - Havana - £153 from Sunglasses-shop
Converse - Fastbreak ’83 Vintage - £70
Casio - Classic Digital Watch F-91W-1XY - £13 from ASOS
adidas - Originals Football Swim Short - £29.99 from Footasylum
See More Get The Look - The Assassination of Gianni Versace - here
Get The Look - Wild, Wild Country
BUY TheChicGeek's new book - FASHIONWANKERS - HERE
It’s not gone Pete Tong, it’s gone Judge Jules! You don’t get more 90s than a pair of yellow lensed wraparound sunglasses.
I first saw these Gosha Rubchinskiy X Retrosuperfuture collaboration sunglasses at the CIFF tradeshow in Copenhagen in January. They were just about to be released. And, while they’ve sold out, the image stuck with me. There’s something disconcertingly bad about them, yet still fresh.
Style icons, the term used very loosely, such as Bono or Eyeball Paul spring to mind. I expect a lot of the sunglasses companies to start making similar styles for SS18. Lookout for bug-eye shapes and light coloured lenses.
Left - Gosha Rubchinskiy X Super by Retrosuperfuture - £200
Below - Gosha Rubchinskiy SS17
Below From Left - The wraparound Trinity of Judge Jules, Eyeball Paul & Bono
Larry Leight, along with his brother Dennis, founded Oliver Peoples nearly 25 years ago. It was built on vintage inspired eyewear and now nearly two and half decades on, Oliver Peoples has come full circle and is now considered vintage itself. To celebrate this fact, Oliver Peoples is re-issuing three classic designs. We met up with Larry at the Haymarket Hotel in London to talk about the new vintage collection, Spring '11 trends and everything glasses related.
CG - Oliver Peoples started when you bought an auction lot of vintage glasses, tell us about that?
LL- I had been a trained optician since 1981. It was 1986 and we bought at auction in Connecticut a lot that contained 6000 frames, brochures, posters, lenses, everything, which had been owned by a guy called Oliver Peoples. It cost $5000. He had tried selling it to various stores but they only wanted a couple of pieces here and there. My brother and I came together and we wanted to get away from what everybody else was doing, it was an unusual lot so we got it. We created a whole category of eyewear that didn't exist before.
CG - Is there much left?
LL - The frames are mostly gone but we still have the catalogues, brochures and posters. When we opened our first store we sold other brands but everybody made a beeline to the vintage area. They liked the lack of logos, the architecture and filigree of the glasses. Then when we ran out we started to manufacture our own line but using the old manufacturing processes; handmade, original pins and hinges.
CG - You designed a pair for Andy Warhol?
LL- Yes, before Oliver Peoples I designed a pair with a flip-down which was featured on the cover of a German magazine.
CG - Tell us about the re-released vintage collection?
These are three iconic styles that are recognised by people as Oliver Peoples, made in exactly the same way. There is the O'Malley, which was named after the 1950s owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It's the pair Patrick Bateman wears in 'American Psycho' and Christian Bale wore them in the movie, the 505 and 1955 which became definitive styles of the 80s. They will be available from December in a limited number and come with an original box and special cleaning cloth which is printed with our very first advertising campaign.
CG - Larry, what are the big trends for next year's eyewear?
LL - In Mosely Tribes (Oliver Peoples' younger sportier label, the Miu Miu to Oliver Peoples Prada) there are lots of metal frames and aviator shapes, plastics, utililtarian and miltary influences with polarise lenses. Polarise lenses eliminate haze and reflection, they make everything really clear, they allow fisherman to see through the water. We've also made holes in the ends so you can attach one of our new leather retainers with a gromet.
In Oliver Peoples we have a new style called the Jack One, it was inspired by a picture of Neil Diamond. It's a pair of metal framed aviators with the sides cut off. A guy called Jack who owned a shop called Optique Boutique in LA during the 1970s, used to take Rayban Aviators and bend them into this shape for every customer and then make new lenses for them.
CG - What's your favourite Oliver Peoples pair?
LL - My favourite pair is the O'Malley (pictured) it's simple or 'Aero', I never imagined this would still be our best seller.
CG - Favourite image or person in glasses?
LL - Sting in 'O'Malley', Claudia Schiffer wearing the '1955' and Brad Pitt in 'Aero'.
CG - Any tips about buying glasses or sunglasses Larry?
LL - I think it's important for people know their own style, don't try to be somebody they aren't. Choose the right style to where they live and what they are doing and how they dress. Frames have a personality. Make sure your eyewear fits what you do.
CG - Any chance of an Oliver Peoples store in London soon?
LL - We do really well here and it would be the first perfect location outside the US.
Read Michelle from Oliver Peoples How to... Look after your glasses and sunglasses - Click here
If you want them to last and continue to look good you should follow these few simple steps says Senior Brand Director of Oliver Peoples, Michelle Lynn Walnum
1. Never put them on the top of head, it stretches them out.
2. Don't leave them in the sun or the car, plastic frames will distort in the heat and lose shape.
3. Always put them in their hard case.
4. Good eye wear needs maintenance. Go to the opticians every 3 to 6 months to have the screws tightened, nose pads cleaned or changed and have the glasses adjusted.
Oliver Peoples was founded in Los Angeles in 1986 by designer Larry Leight. A professional optician, the company started after Larry bought an auction lot of vintage frames in Connecticut. The previous owner, who had collected the frames over years, was called Oliver Peoples, hence the name.
The retro inspired collections have made Oliver Peoples one of the world's most respected names in eye wear over the last twenty years. Still made with the care and attention of frames past, Oliver Peoples are top quality in terms of manufacture and design. Oliver Peoples have made eye wear collections for such illustrious names as Paul Smith, Prada and Helmut Lang.
Find out how Oliver Peoples started when we met the founder Larry Leight - Click here