|Part of the SomNoir family where the emphasis is on horn is from left to right Huntsman, Lola, Carmen, and Pilot.
|So explains Nick Palmiotto, vice president, sales and marketing for De Rigo Vision USA who says his business is as viable as ever. For this luxury consumer, it’s about how distinctive the product looks, how and where it’s made, and the materials used, seconds a spokesperson for the Safilo Group. “There is no recession with this class of buyer. They continue to seek out specialty products independent of market conditions.”
“We are living in a time of rising appreciation for the craft,” adds Sam Hilliard, president and founder of SomNoir Eyewear Co. “You see this in the rise of artisan coffeehouses, microbreweries, and custom tailoring boutiques. People are definitely willing to pay extra for one’s time, skill, and effort.”THE EXPERTS SPEAK
That’s the good news. The bad news is that, though the high-end market is still healthy and viable, the number of retailers that can sell this kind of product has shrunk, making it a challenge. Such is the opinion of Nadine Roth, vice president, marketing, Face à Face, who advises ECPs to concentrate on fewer brands and select products that are not mass distributed “in order to attract the clientele looking for this kind of uniqueness.”
To be successful, Anthony V. Codispoti, business director and co-founder of Activist Eyewear, suggests ECPs think of themselves as eyewear consultants and take the time to learn about their patients and how they use their eyewear. He also advocates getting to know the story behind the brand. “People need the functionality of eyewear but they’re willing to spend more for a product they become emotionally attached to,” he says. Fabrizio Gamberini, CEO at Marcolin, goes a step further, offering ECPS three golden rules for selling.
- Showcase an assortment. “Display the entire collection, not just a few pieces. People want to select, touch, see, and understand where the brand is going.”
- Product presentation is critical. Forget hidden items behind a cabinet and leverage on the marketing material provided.
- Make it easy for the patient to find women’s vs. men’s, plastic vs. metal, low price point vs. high price point, etc., “so you can show the difference between the expensive products with regard to material, design elements, and so on,” he concludes.
SomNoir Eyewear’s Hilliard believes there are three types of patients: Those who have to have the over-$500 eyewear because it fits them perfectly, those who have to have it because it’s expensive, and those who have to have it because it’s special. This includes the patient of more modest means who appreciates the timelessness and top-quality artisanship and materials these frames offer.
Josh Josephson, OD, and owner of Toronto-based Josephson Opticians expands on this. Materials he’s seen that are popular in this price range include higher-quality titanium, wood, buffalo horn, special fabrication patents, such as LINDBERG’s hinge, precious metals, and semi-precious and precious stones. “We all look at the face first,” he states. “And so folks like to create an impression with the signature characteristics of their eyewear.”WHAT’S OUT THERE
Here’s a rundown of what some select brands are offering:Activist:
A single brand with a single collection centered on the term “Activist,” this eyewear is for an individual committed to movement. The frames are co-injected plastic and rubber, and feature hingeless Split-Flex™ temples with beta-titanium core, vented nosepads, and ActiVIZm™ polarized lenses. De Rigo Vision USA:
The company is known for its dynamic mix of brands including Chopard, Lanvin, Givenchy, Escada, Carolina Herrera, Furla, and Ermenegildo Zegna. Chopard, in particular, offers patients eyewear on par with jewelry. Each piece is hand-assembled by highly trained artisans one piece at a time, taking over 200 hours to complete one frame. Made in Italy, it contains the highest gold content of most luxury collections at five microns of 23K gold.Face à Face:
The Paris-based company focuses on designs that are “out there,” like its Punkit or Bocca sunglasses, which are considered “art” and produced in limited editions. Most contain precious or unique metals, including aluminum mixed with acetate for men and strong details like spikes and rivets for women. Marcolin:
Metal and acetate combinations continue to be strong. “We have amazing Tom Ford and Balenciaga frames that, despite the price, we cannot keep in stock,” says Gamberini. “Stones and crystals, seen in Swarovski and Roberto Cavalli styles, are also very popular. Any usage of special materials such as horn and leather on Montblanc eyewear is always a success.” Safilo:
The company is offering several frames in the high-end range in its various sunwear designer collections. Dior, for example, recently introduced three distinctive women’s styles featuring high-quality manufacturing techniques: a women’s runway style called Dior So Real and limited-editions Dior Superb/S and Dior Exquise/S. The Dior Enigmatic will release in September. On the men’s side, Dior will be introducing the Black Tie Style No. 193/S which is available in black or blue leather and the Black Tie Style No. 2.0 FS in titanium.
Gucci will offer two luxurious models: Style Nos. GG3692/S and GG3693/S later this fall in time for the holidays and will feature the exclusive Gucci’s intricate Diamantissima design pattern on gold-plated temples. Fendi will also be releasing a limited-edition sunglass, Style No. 0031/F/S. Bottega Veneta rolled out sun Style No. BV 261/S in titanium in May to select customers.SomNoir:
This six-year-old company puts an emphasis on handcrafted attention to detail. Of the 15 designs in its current line, many come in both ophthalmic and sunglass frames. The line focuses on genuine horn which Hilliard says has the “blessing of unique organic beauty and an unmatched polish feel.” All frames are natural and green—no plastics or petrochemical processes—and are hypoallergenic and boast an exclusive color variation.
Knowing the history behind each frame, and its specific features in terms of construction, materials, and details, will go far in helping you build a special rapport with your patient, satisfy her emotional needs, and hopefully, establish your dispensary as the one she’ll return to again and again for luxury eyewear.Jeanne Muchnick is Managing Editor of