Sunglasses Magazine, a publication of First Vision Media Group, is the premiere source of information and education as it pertains to the products and services of the sunwear retail industry. We recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Ms. Ana Montoya, Editor-In-Chief of Sunglasses Magazine and Social Media Director at First Vision Media Group. We were honored to speak with Ana and her audience of retailers about the urban sunglass market. The magazine will be available in print at Vision Expo NYC, and in digital format.
BOUTIQUE BRANDS ON THE URBAN STYLE RADAR
Grant Harris is the owner and chief style consultant of Image Granted, a D.C.-based image consulting company that helps professional men dress for the life they want. As an urbanite fashion expert himself, we enlisted his help to zoom in on boutique brands that target the urban style consumer with their sunglass designs.
Sunglasses: How do your top boutique sunglass brands capture the spirit of urban chic?
Grant Harris:Each of the brands I selected for this article has distinctive attributes centered around these aspects. While they are all different, they are all the same in the sense that they fit the urban aesthetic. Every one of these featured spring/summer collections has character, panache, and a little something extra that helps them stand out as opposed to their more conservative counterparts.
• Garrett Leight –Shape and color are what stand out the most from the Garrett Leight collection. This California line offers various colorways for their lenses that act as a complement to modernize the retro frames used. Keyhole bridges are prevalent with a brow bar that is slightly arched to give the wearer a softer and more approachable look. Clean lines and bold colors make Garrett Leight an option for those who like a retro feel and a bit of boldness with a colorful lens.
• Michael Bastian x Randolph Engineering –New England designer Michael Bastian has collaborated with one of the most iconic American sunglass manufacturers, Randolph Engineering. This collection is built on marrying visual texture with classic aviators, caravans, and wayfarers. Randolph also incorporates the use of polarized lenses for those urbanites who are sun worshippers and lead an active lifestyle. The collection features clear rims and temples infused with a hint of what looks to be smoke to give a punch of visual texture while keeping the actual surface smooth to the touch.
• Shwood –Shwood came on the scene a couple of years ago at the MRket show in NYC. This year they were featured in the Vanguards Gallery by Michael Macko and for good reason. Shwood is based on a unique concept of offering sunglasses molded out of wood, which creates a real attraction of visual and tactile texture. Urbanites may have never seen a forest before, so wearing one on your face could be the way to pay homage to Mother Earth.
• Activist Eyewear – Activist makes its claim to fame based on its rare design approach with temples that are actually curved and pronged in order to sit securely and comfortably on the wear’s face compared to standard sunglasses which may pinch and slip. Activist uses lightweight materials which will come in handy for city goers on the move. Lenses come in a variety of colorways and some even in rainbow options as well. And if you feel like channeling your inner John Lennon, they have a few pairs that will do the trick.
SG:What advice would you offer to sunglass retailers who are trying to decide which boutique sunglass brands to stock their shelves with?
GH:There are several things to consider when choosing the right sunglasses, whether your style is professorial, romantic, hippie, or in this case—urban. Shape, color, texture, and pattern are the factors to consider when making sunglass-buying decisions for your retail space. It would be best to make a distinction in the majority of these categories, but you can’t be everything to all customers, so pick and choose your poison carefully. You have to know your current customer and the customer you want to attract.
• Shape –There are classic styles that everyone knows. Clubmaster, wayfarer, aviator, caravan, etc. These shapes are the standard. Finding a collection that plays with the standard will be attractive to your customers. Softening or sharpening an edge here, combining two styles there, offering oversized options and several shapes will give your customers choices they won’t find in the local corner shop.
• Color –Offering more colorways is always an option but it’s easy to overwhelm customers. Instead, look for signature colors that are saturated and/or that are rare and highlight them. Bright and saturated lenses and/or frames will help those who want to be noticed stand out, while carrying exclusive colors will keep trendsetting customers happy.
• Texture – Visual and tactile texture is important. Looking at something that seems rough but is actually smooth to the touch is a great way to play with the senses. Wood that feels like wood. Clear frames that are filled with a substance that adds a visual component is a surefire conversation starter. Frames should be unique to the eye and to the hand.
• Pattern – Pattern is best used where texture isn’t. Hairline stripes, tortoiseshell, wood grain, and others give an interesting effect that makes the wearer feel like their sunglasses are an extension of the patterns they like to wear in their wardrobe; the sunglasses will feel like a part of them rather than an extra piece added on.
SG: If you could put Urban Style into words, how would you describe it?
GH: Urban style isn’t definable. Instead it simply exists. Trying to define an urbanite is like trying to catch a rabbit in an open field. One minute it’s here, the next it’s there. Urbanites can be world travellers or hermits. They can be jetsetters with apartments in different countries or they can never leave their block and know every one of their neighbors’ names.
Either way, they make their presence know domestically or abroad. They are attuned to their surroundings because they are always surrounded—by stimulation through music, food, art, literature, and the like. It may be hip-hop or Gershwin, foie gras, or cheeseburgers, but they have a deep passion and appreciation for everything in life.
Urban style can be brash and fervent, but not without reason. There is always a reason one likes to dress with flash and flair. Either it’s their neighborhood, someone they admire in TV or music, or some other homage paid to a person, place, or thing which they hold in high regard. Urban style isn’t about surviving in the present. It’s about thriving into the future.