They say it’s the little things in life that make it worth living. When it comes to fashion, it’s the little things that allow brands to survive. Specifically: eyewear. The importance of sunglasses and prescription frames to fashion houses can be traced back more than 30 years to 1983. That’s the year a German designer named Karl Lagerfeld took over at Chanel—a label that had been written off as dead.
A large part of Lagerfeld’s reinvention of the Chanel brand was to democratize its exclusivity. He opened boutiques worldwide where anyone could—for the right price—purchase a Chanel suit. But Lagerfeld also turned fashion’s revenue model on its well-coiffed head by encouraging the sale of small accessories. The ones that captured the public’s imagination? Quilted purses, bien sûr, and sunglasses.
Three decades on, eyewear is a significant profit generator for nearly every clothing label in the world. The advent of laser eye surgery in the 1990s was supposed to be the death knell, at least for prescription glasses. But tell that to the people on the street sporting corrective lenses like fashion accessories, or to eyewear designers like Alain Mikli, Lafont Paris, and Anna-Karin Karlsson, who have significant followings.
With frames integral to the latest looks, now’s your chance to familiarize yourself with the top trends.
Here, Kitty The big look this season is the cat-eye frame, according to Sara Moshurchak, owner of Granville Eyeland Framemakers in Gastown (45 Water Street). “Everybody was asking for cat eyes, but I was having a hard time finding good ones,” she says. “So I made three pair, and they sold in a week. That’s when I decided to get into one-of-a-kind pieces with my own label.” Moshurchak, who founded MOSHdesigns about a year ago, makes other custom styles, but for the moment cat eyes are the most popular.
Nada Vuksic agrees. A veteran Vancouver eyewear retailer at Gastown’s Bruce Eyewear (219 Abbott Street), Vuksic opened a second Bruce location at 3553 Main Street in January. Having recently returned from Milan’s MIDO eyewear trade show, she says cat eyes were everywhere. Somewhat surprisingly, the seemingly feminine style was also being touted for men. “These over here,” she says, pointing out a pair of thick black frames, “they were first made for Roy Orbison. A lot of people don’t realize that men used to wear cat eyes too.”
Soft Cell Frames, particularly acetate ones, have long been available in a variety of colours, but people just weren’t buying them. “Colour used to be this arty thing,” says Vuksic, who, is wearing square hot-pink frames. “We offered colour, but our more conservative tones were the real sellers. Not anymore: this season, frames are heavily influenced by runway trends like pastels in the frames and metallics in the lenses.” One of Bruce Eyewear’s most popular new lines, available at the original Gastown location, is Grafik from South Korea—chunky, cartoony glasses with interchangeable arms that come in a dozen colours. “It’s about having fun and expressing your creativity,” Vuksic says.
“There’s a real demand for colour,” says Moshurchak, adding that people aren’t just wearing the same frames day in and day out. When it comes to prescription eyewear, “people are buying glasses for a look now instead of buying off a formula,” she says. “It’s like shoes—you wouldn’t have just one pair of shoes. Well, now you have your power glasses and your girly glasses and your dressy glasses. Ten years ago, people tended to wear things that blended in. Well, not anymore.”