SILMO 2019: Anything goes…but sustainability grows

Trying to spot the trends at this year’s Silmo in Paris, one of the largest optical fairs in the world, was a tough ask. Thin metals, especially in rose gold, abounded, but that’s the here and now; tomorrow remained elusive.

But that’s no bad thing, said Eschenbach Optik’s vice president, Walter Kaiser. “The biggest trend is there are no major differences at the moment - everything goes… So, for whatever your taste, there’s a solution.” That offers optometrists a good opportunity to differentiate themselves from the corporate stores next door, he said. “How do you distinguish yourself? Well you offer something different, and for those looking for something different, you give them that choice.”

The whole optical market has been very much influenced by classical American vintage shapes for the past five years, said JF Rey founder and eyewear legend Jean-François Rey, but now we’re moving into more interesting times as there’s so many different experiences influencing designers. “Fashion is not one straight path… at this time, there are lots of different things; sportswear, street wear and at same time very sophisticated ladies wearing different fashion styles, looking like 60s pin-ups.”

Design Eyewear Group’s head designer and Face a Face co-founder, Pascal Jaulent, said this lack of clear trends offers designers the chance to better express themselves across their different ranges. “You will always be relevant; the market will consider your opinion. It is freedom, and I like that.”

There were trends to be seen at Silmo 2019, however, but these were broad trends that came in many different designs and materials: one was colour - glorious bright, strong colours and the other was sustainability; the desire to reduce the eyewear industry’s impact on the environment.

Focusing on the planet

Compared with the past, a growing number of designers at this year’s Silmo Paris proudly proclaimed their frames’ and their companies’ green credentials and commitments before focusing on what was new about this year’s releases.

Feb31st

There were some, like Italian customised wooden frames manufacturer Feb31st, using ecologically harvested wood and making its bespoke frames to order, so there are no wasted products. As well as wood, the company that has long followed an environmental path, now offers metal and wood combinations and, new to Silmo, a complete metal frame collection (see story in next month’s NZ Optics). The metal range also has end tips and nose pads made from a rubber produced from corn.

Ogi Eyewear

Ogi’s cases are all made from recycled materials, while its point-of-sale (POS) products, such as its logo blocks, mirrors and PD rulers (offered free to customers) are made from the left-over acetate from its Ogi, Seraphin, Scojo, Red Rose and Bon Vivant ranges.

Ogi’s also using recycled acetate, but it has its limitations, says marketing director Katy Dajnowski. “When you recycle acetate, you take all the colours and smush them together. So, right now, black is the only colour you can produce, which is why we’re taking the left-over acetate and making POS items.”

On the design side, the new Seraphin collection uses novel materials like faux leather, says Richie Livan. “Everything is super forward thinking. Seraphin Knoll, for example, is amazing. It’s made from sheet metal instead of your standard rolled ground metal, so it hides the prescription on the side for harder prescriptions.”

Also eye-catching was Bon Vivant’s new range, which sported spiral bridges made with an inlaid piece of crystal acetate, giving a light-catching two-tone effect. “Bon Vivant is very glamorous, like old Hollywood, but with more of a European feel,” said Dajnowski.

Nina Mūr

Madrid-based eyewear start-up Nina Mūr is not for the faint-hearted. Its bold styles also make a bold environmental statement. The frame bases are made from birch wood from replanted Finnish forests, the faces are made from recycled paper and the cases from recycled leather.

“We use only the best European components and those which have the least environmental impact,” said co-founder Lorena Serrano. “We produce only on order… and we’ve won a lot of awards because we have a very different approach. We also upcycle our waste, making earrings for example.”

C-Zone

Best known for its coloured metal eyewear, Dutch company C-Zone also unveiled a new environmentally-friendly range at Silmo, made from a very light bioplastic, derived from castor oil seeds, in collaboration with a French company called Arkema.

“They are wizards in reusing plastic,” said Rob Maas, C-Zone’s upbeat designer and co-founder. “The plastic is super, super strong and super, super light and has a lot of resistance.”

Monoqool

3D printed eyewear founder Monoqool has used castor beans to produce what it’s calling ‘the first green, 3D printing material’. The material is so new that it only had one model on display - its Sustain sunglasses. The limited-edition sunglasses are only available to 100 stores worldwide and, like most of Moonqool’s range, are super light at just four grams.

Neubau

Like Feb31st, Silhouette International’s Neubau Eyewear range has always put the environment first. Launched just four years ago, its urban-style frames are made from a product it calls NaturalPX, again made primarily from castor oil seeds.

NaturalPX is lightweight, very flexible and sturdy and can be produced in a range of colours, said Neubau’s Daniela Schöppl. Neubau’s accessories are also all environmentally friendly: the cases are made from cellulose with no glue, so are completely recyclable, and its cleaning cloths are made from recycled plastic bottles.

“From the beginning, Silhouette has always been very aware of its environment and its impact, not just on the environment but also on its people,” said David Chalmers, Silhouette’s global sales director. “Silhouette has won the best employer award in Austria many times and we always try to put more back than we take out: we plant forests, recycle our water, use solar panels, have charging points in our car parks.”

Consumers today are demanding these changes, he said. “This gives us an authentic message, but it’s as much about economic efficiency as well as sustainability.”

Opal

Winner of the children’s category in this year’s Silmo d’Or awards, Opal launched its first bio-acetate range for two to three-year-olds, all made of plant-based materials. The simple round frames, designed for comfort and wear, are non-toxic and hypoallergenic for our most delicate family members.

Colouring up our world

Colour abounded at this year’s Silmo: vibrant reds, matched with bright pinks and purples, bright incandescent blues, greens and warm oranges, mixed with golds.

Kirk & Kirk’s Kaleidoscope collection, featuring large, bold translucent acrylic frames in bright primary colours verily leapt off the stand, while it was impossible not to smile when faced with so much colour and happiness on Lara D’s stand (see NZ Optics next month).

Lafont

One of the most famous designers when it comes to colour is the proudly Parisienne Lafont, whose stand at Silmo is always a delight to behold with it’s colourful, living room shelves-styled displays.

“There is one word to describe Lafont - colour,” said Matthieu Lafont, who now heads the family-owned firm, while his brother Thomas leads design. “About 80% of our colours are exclusive to us, 90% in kids. What makes our frame a frame, is 50% its shape and 50% its colour. For us, it’s very important to have both.”

The design process starts with Thomas selecting that season’s colours, said Lafont, proudly displaying a range of bright red and pink eyewear from this year’s collection. Some frames sported obvious layers, with cut-out polka dots of colour. Others were smooth, amalgamating colours in different patterns and frames shapes. The colour was the link, while the frames and materials varied.

Etnia Barcelona

Offering fabulous colour, while still doing their bit to help the world through its little-known eyewear foundation, Etnia Barcelona’s Silmo stand was a riot of activity and warmth.

Huge brightly coloured posters adorned its walls, depicting its current promotional theme, Imperfect, showing how ‘imperfect’ people were beautiful. “We wanted to celebrate the different beauty of people. We wanted to say it doesn’t matter how you are, you have to express yourself,” said Etnia’s Pili Rodriguez.

“We create our own colours for each collection,” said marketing director Aida Cabrera. “We use natural acetate… you cut the acetate and you produce one frame, so every frame is slightly different to the other one. Every frame is imperfect, so they are perfect.”

JF Rey

Colours were unleashed across JF Rey’s brightly coloured stand. It’s new Frida Kahlo Boz Eyewear range favoured strong Mexican colours and patterns. The mix and match metal frames in its Petite range popped with two or more bright colours in each frame, while Volte Face’s signature remains colour.

Technically unique, Wave frames feature a fascinating bridge twisting and bending two or three different coloured metals to create a style that’s almost fluid in motion. Meanwhile, the stunning Shell frames sport two metal rims, intricately designed to make them stand out from the ordinary, said founder Jean-François Rey. “I like playing with metal in different ways – this is very new.”

Woodys Barcelona

True to its wave-riding roots, Woodys may have branched away from wooden sunglasses where it started, but bright beach colours still abound. This year’s Cluedo-inspired theme focused on ‘Woodys Hotel’ where nothing and no one is who they seem, all clad in bright and glorious colours.

“Our slogan is ‘unique people’ and the Cluedo game is perfect to show how each person has a different style,” said founder Josep Dosta. “We are a little bit crazy on the story and how we make everything.”

Woodys’ new thin sport line has beta titanium temples and small wood detailing staying true to the brand’s identity. While it’s new gangster-inspired Mob collection was designed for those who see their glasses as something which sets them apart and highlights their presence, said Dosta.

Sunshades - Jono Hennessy

Jono Hennessy also rolled out the colour at Silmo with a return to his popular Liberty fabric theme. “The Jono collection is all about colour and vibrancy and individuality,” said Sunshades’ Emma Kowaleczko. “It’s about making a statement and believing in who you are. The layering of the acetate and the technique he uses for that is completely unique and very artisan, which is very Jono.”

Jono Hennessy’s Carter Bond R-evolution range glimmers with more male-style colour. Described as “exploring our environment through time and space… Glam Rock meets dandies, dudes and peacocks” the new collection employs textures and tones of dark green, beige and sky blue designed to work with any man’s tweeds and chinos, said Kowaleczko.

Design Eyewear Group

Always a kaleidoscope of colour, the Design Eyewear Group’s Face a Face and Woow new collections jumped out from brightly coloured stands.

“Face a face is sophisticated, avant garde. It must always be at the forefront, surprising, exploring attitude with its colours,” said Pascal Jaulent. “I was very audacious this season in shapes and colour combinations - the pleasure and magic of it. I love this direction when everything seems so anxious at the moment. So, our designs must express happiness, free spirit, positive feeling, beauty.”

The fastest growing brand in the group, also popped with colour. Nifties are dedicated to small faces. Jaulent said he’s particularly enjoyed the challenge of this brand. “It’s about learning how to express design with small proportions; how do you do oversize on small faces? That’s what makes it fun. Nifties is technical, fashionable and very human. You must like people to design nice frames, otherwise they are just a technical object, and these are so much more than that.”

Menrad - Jaguar

Though not known for its colour, Jaguar’s Spirit range brought colour to the brand more than a decade ago and has been pushing boundaries ever since. When viewed together, the range incorporates every bright colour imaginable, but careful design puts it on the inside, so it’s obvious when presented, but not when worn.

“Jaguar stands for beautiful design, performance, emotions and technology. We take these elements and analyse what this is for the car and transfer this into eyewear,” said design director Eberhard Müller-Menrad.

Made solely for men, Jaguar’s eyewear collection offers five different segments, including the Classic, which is similar to Spirit but with less colour. The latest edition is Heritage wouldn’t have been acceptable 10 years ago but, given today’s widening trends and desire for vintage-inspired looks, it is proving to be very popular, Müller-Menrad said.

Other highlights: the art of eyewear

Other highlights from this year’s Silmo were several designers who stood out for the strength of their design or, in some cases, their art.

Falvin

Leading the “art” tag is Falvin by former jeweller-turned-eyewear designer Brigitte Falvin. Influenced by Danish architecture, her latest collection is inspired by The Crystal, a free-standing, environmentally friendly building on Copenhagen’s waterfront. “It’s kind of floating, very contemporary and has some details I have incorporated, like these small cut-outs,” said Falvin.

Made from lightweight materials, including titanium and incorporating incredible technical detailing, such as discrete diamonds in the top of the temple face plate, Falvin’s frames are all handmade in Japan. Her rose gold sunglasses also incorporated rose gold lenses that, intriguingly, you couldn’t see through until you put them on. “Women work a lot with their makeup, so I wanted a transparent look as, for me, sunglasses and flirting go hand in hand.”

The new collection includes six new models, with another three in the pipeline. “My collection is very personal to me. I want it to be something people haven’t seen before - something interesting. Why make a collection if it’s not going to be different? You need time to make beautiful design.”

Caroline Abram

Another designer who also prides herself on putting “sexy” into eyewear is Caroline Abram.

“I want women to feel beautiful when they wear these frames. When you have a very special dinner date, you wear your most beautiful shoes, bag and dress, but you sit at the table and the man doesn’t see the dress, the shoes, the bag, nothing, just the frame, but you didn’t take care of that. Women need to understand it’s the first and most important accessory they should focus on. That’s the idea of Caroline Abram.”

Winner of the 2019 Silmo d’Or Award for sunglass designer, Abram launched two new women’s collection at Silmo; the thin-framed Chérie collection and the related thicker, but light, Darling collection. Many frames feature her stunning cut-out colour signature, where part of the colour is left out on one side, so the sides don’t match.

As always, these were accompanied by her related children’s ranges, Mini Dear and, nominated for another Silmo d’Or, Mini Diva.

Kenmark – Vera Wang

Taking pride of place on Kenmark’s stand was Vera Wang’s new metals collection. Beautiful thin golds that were both contemporary and timeless. Describing them as “minimalistic modernism” Kenmark’s chief creative officer David Duralde said, “They are slightly oversized with a little geometry to the shape; dramatic by their simplicity. It’s a younger vibe, which is hard to do with metals. It encapsulates some of the trends that are hot right now.”

Another collection turning heads was Zac Posen’s. This perfectly blends old-style Hollywood glamour and craftsmanship, said Duralde. “The Chaka is really hot this season. It’s very romantic, combining metal and acetate, with a very thin acetate brow.

“Vera and Zac - their frames are timeless. They don’t chase around trends, but because they are so well studied in fashion, they understand how to do true style, so a woman or man who buys the product can feel, five years later, like they still look relevant. That’s the mark of a good designer.”

With so much choice, “be audacious”, said Jaulent. “Dare and trust your customers; your patients. They are much more ready than you are to discover new things.”

Ed’s note: see next month’s NZ Optics for more news and views from Silmo 2019, including new ranges coming to New Zealand.

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