Anna Kirby has turned the fashion scene on its axis with her fresh approach to marketing and promoting fashion eyewear to boutiques and optometry practices alike.
Anna Kirby’s charm is in her passion for the brands she represents and her opinions carry some weight. In addition to her ‘day job’ as General Manager for Stomp Fashion, Anna has also been a contributing writer for Italian magazine Sportswear International for the past four years on local trends that offer a global focus. In less than five years Stomp Fashion has grown into a multi-million dollar business. The company represents international fashion brands in the Australasian market including the hugely successful luxury accessories portfolios of Dita Eyewear and Oliver Goldsmith sunglass range.
Q. As a person who is very aware of fashion trends globally, what ideas do you have that can assist independent optometrists with their purchasing and marketing of fashion eyewear?
A. I must qualify that my experiences have been formed from working at the designer end of the optical frame market – however this does not make what I have to say inappropriate for suburban practices which carry more mainstream products, as I believe passion, product knowledge and insightful stock purchasing is imperative, no matter where your patients’ demographic lies.
… that which was once exclusive, suddenly lost their appeal because the sense of exclusivity was lost – the term “masstige” became common lingo for the trend
Q. When did you become involved in the luxury eyewear market? What is your background?
A. I started working with optical brands because I was unhappy with the selection of niche international luxury brands available in our market. Yes, there were the usual luxury brands but I felt they had lost their appeal due to their mass distribution. After the large designer brands were made available to the masses, that which was once exclusive, suddenly lost their appeal because the sense of exclusivity was lost – the term “masstige” became common lingo for the trend.
Designers began to broaden the target market from purely high-end consumers, to marketing eyewear and other accessories as an entry level purchase for many. So, I felt it was time to bring in some other options for the Australian consumer.
One of my most important strategies in representing Dita and Oliver Goldsmith has involved product distribution; into both exclusive fashion boutiques and selected optical practices. By stocking select boutiques in this way, there is a much higher chance of the brands being seen on the ‘right people’, and in the ‛right magazine’ photo shoots.
This is where the consumer for these products is different – they are more influenced by seeing those within the fashion industry endorsing the brand, than they are by celebrities wearing the product. They like to feel ‘in-the-know’ and the more exclusive the brand appears, the more desirable. Gary Theodore of Scanlan&Theodore has been one of my biggest supporters; he could see my vision for the brands I was representing, and helped me deliver the eyewear brands (Dita and Oliver Goldsmith) directly to my defined target market. Truly a visionary, Gary was the first to introduce prestigious Christian Louboutin shoes into Australia (famous for their sexy red soles).
Q. Can you tell us a bit more about what you write for the Italian magazine – can you include global trends and how they are translated to the local market?
A. I have been contributing for Sportswear International for the past four years. I write pieces on local trends, as the magazine has a global focus and most importantly, it views the Australian market as being quite influential in terms of international trends.
Q. For those practices interested in carrying exclusive brands, what suggestions would you offer in terms of retail presentation, training and understanding the market as being different from mainstream customers and brands?
A. At Stomp Fashion, we always try to provide our stores with press books and brand press releases that we produce for our labels. We would also include any images of celebrities wearing our product, as a large majority of today’s consumers remain influenced by celebrity culture. It definitely helps to show the consumer the press book and keep it near the collections for context. We supply our stores with customised displays and magazine show cards. Also, creating the right environment such as making sure you have the right mirrors and lighting can assist, as some mirrors and poor lighting can be quite detrimental to sales.
In order to successfully sell high-end eyewear it helps to have young retail staff, who are interested in fashion. Make sure you (or the brand reps) educate your staff about the brand. Make sure all your reps provide you with detailed press releases and media kits so you know your product. Also, displaying a range of current fashion and lifestyle magazines (Harpers Bazaar/Vogue/Russh/GQ and Mens’ Style) adds to the ambience of the store.
The more technical the frame, the more the consumer will think they are getting value for money. It is imperative that the consumer is advised of the features and benefits of any technology used. I am definitely a fan of spring hinges as I feel it adds value to the frame.
Q. What is your take on the domination of vintage/retro inspired frames?
A. In fashion it is important that there is a clear understanding of the marketplace. To continue to be successful requires flexibility – being able to constantly reinvent and reinterpret your brand and products for the changing trends and ideals of the customer. Many previously popular brands are delving into their archives and re-releasing signature pieces. One only has to look at the successful re-launch of the perennially cool RayBan Wayfarer to know that there is a market for ‘new’ old pieces. New colours, shapes or re-branding can all extend the lifecycle of a brand, and fresh marketing creative is tantamount in maintaining an aspirational allure. If the desirability of the product has waned over time, then it will become obsolete unless it is injected with new passion with an appropriate insight to make it relevant again.
Q. What do you see as the next ‘big thing’ in fashion eyewear?
A. At the moment there is a lot of confusion because there are just so many looks available, with so many high street stores flooding the market with their version of catwalk trends. I think everyone is struggling to be ‘different’ and that struggle has ended up being a type of uniform. For women wanting to be ahead of the rest, I would personally go for a flamboyant cats eye, a classic oversize round acetate or a feminine pretty metal frame in an 80s shape.
Q. High Fashion vs. Designer Fashion?
A. High street chains such as Supre and Sportsgirl are very good at interpreting street style into something desirable – hence the expression ‘throw away’ or ‘fast’ fashion – the turnaround from street, to store, to irrelevance has become a matter of weeks. These looks are not designed to be around for long – just for a quick ‘fashion fix’. There are negative implications for the luxury market who take longer to create the original piece and the impact made on the environment with this disposable fashion – eventually we will all be paying a price for this new trend, as it is just not sustainable.
There is, however, no substitute for an original piece – a brand only becomes special when it has a story – people are buying into the whole experience on an emotional level – either for being able to relate to, or aspire to the product. Craftsmanship and use of premium materials is only the starting point. I agree with James Twitchell, author of Living It Up: America’s Love Affair with Luxury who emphasizes the role integrity, authenticity and heritage play in making a product one of ‘luxury’.
Q. Australian fashion seems to be influenced from diverse sources from all over the world. Is there a fashion trend in eyewear or accessories today that you see as representing something uniquely Australian? Do we also create trends that are followed overseas?
A. I think in Australia we are seen to represent beautiful beaches and gorgeous weather – therefore it is bright colours and louder designs that seem to have been picked up a lot quicker here than they have in other, more conservative markets. As for Australia creating international trends, you need only look at the success of Aussie eyewear brands, Ksubi for Richard Nicoll, sass&bide and AM Eyewear to see that we have many famous fans wearing Aussie labels. I have seen that when it comes to avant-garde eyewear – we sit between the conservative American market and the more extravagant, risk taking European markets.