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Tuesday / August 16.
HomemifashionMIDO 09: Are Tradeshows still relevant?

MIDO 09: Are Tradeshows still relevant?

The annual trek to MIDO this year was caged in an air of uncertainty about what to expect. With tradeshows losing support from exhibitors and with the backdrop of the global financial crisis, I was keen to assess what impact these factors may have on our own Odmafair in July.

One of the main reasons for the much publicised move of the world’s most important optical event, from the traditional May timeslot forward two months to early March, was so it would be held at the end of a 10 day period of 12 international exhibitions closing with the four most important shows of footwear, furs, handbags and eyewear: MICAM “The Shoe Event”, MIPEL “The Bag Show”, and MIFUR “The International Fur and Leather Exhibition” and of course MIDO.

As a consequence, the expectation was that this would somehow transform MIDO from just another optical trade fair to some kind of super fashion event, which would allow exhibitors and visitors to present and experience eyewear in a new dimension.

The organisers proclaimed in the pre- MIDO press conference the move to stage MIDO in March “was a strategic decision and a sign of confidence and will create synergies among fashion, clothing and accessories.” Whether this was achieved time will tell.

My impression of the change in the timetable was it was not well received by exhibitors. The main reason they said was because of the proximity to both Silmo, held late last year in Paris, and the Munich optical fair, held just over a month before MIDO, in late January.

Early Signs

There were early signs that maybe this would be a low key event. In previous years there has been heavy promotion of the Fair around the centre of Milan and at other key precincts. Also commuting to the show has always been in a crowded Metro carriage. This year, none of this was apparent.

On the opening day, there were only small crowds queuing at the entrance and not a lot of familiar faces. Visitors from overseas were down 18 per cent with overall attendance down by nine per cent. Clearly, the MIDO organisers were expecting a downturn based on the already grim news coming from within the industry and presented in the MIDO press. Italian eyewear production in 2008 was down by 6.4 per cent over 2007. Exports were down 4.7 per cent overall and exports of sunglasses fell 6.9 per cent.

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While MIDO is primarily about Italian eyewear, with 46 per cent of the visitors from Italy, the majority of visitors come from outside Italy and there are many exhibitors from France, Germany, Asia and Scandinavia making MIDO the most important international eyewear fair, offering a unique opportunity to gain a complete overview of the entire eyewear sector.

The Italian Eyewear Industry

The focus of reporting about the fair is from the point of view of the Italian industry which remains the world’s largest with 26 per cent of the world’s exports.

The move by the Italian industry to reposition Italian eyewear is strategic and important and has implications for independent optometry in trying to differentiate itself from the high profile budget chains that are making their presence felt in the Australian and New Zealand markets. The dichotomy is as simple as the contrast between quality, style and innovation exemplified by MIDO and the low cost copy-cat manufacturing that is the basis of budget eyewear.

European eyewear is unashamedly about brands, quality, style and innovation and MIDO is the showcase.

Trends and New Collections

In spite of the economic cloud hanging over the Fair, there was the excitement of viewing the new collections from our suppliers and also visiting the MIDO Design Lab, which is an exclusive area for the most innovative companies that love to experiment with new shapes, new materials and new concepts.

It’s also amusing to see the unusual and original stand designs, the variety of which are no doubt inspired by the wide range of style, colours and materials on show. The most ridiculous, but effective, was ic! berlin’s stand, which featured displays, tables and chairs fashioned from empty cardboard boxes taped together on the bare concrete floor. The effect was chaotic, but in keeping with the bohemian nature of the brand.

What of the Trends? Eyewear today is eclectic. There is something for everybody and there is no clear trend. Eyewear design is about reinventing style with new materials and colours and blending contemporary design with traditional influences. The most obvious was the strong impact of retro and vintage.

Retro is still “fashion forward”, or as the new brand Rye and Lye’s caption stated, “Future Retro Eyewear”.

Every major manufacturer had 1970s retro styles in metal or acetate with aviator influence, double bridges and the inevitable vintage 1950s tortoise acetates for men and women. In fact, it was very noticeable how many younger women were wearing masculine retro optical styles. But this was MIDO and Milan and people wear outrageous styles to stand out.

Retro was even more dominant in the Design Lab. The German companies were very strong in this style. MunicEyewear featured retro styles with identical models available in both metal and acetate. Hoffman, Martin & Martin, ic! Berlin, Reiz and the Austrian manufacturer Andy Wolf all displayed collections with strong traditional influences but presented with modern materials and combinations. Retro is back but the materials and colours are new age.

The other persistent trend is Bling. Bling is no longer a fad. It’s now mainstream. After all, eyewear, especially for women, is jewellery for the face and optical frames and sunglasses with crystals and lacquered decorations were very prominent at MIDO. And it’s not just for the over 45s. The French seem to excel at this with manufacturers such as Grosfilley showcasing their beautiful Azzaro Couture collection featuring Swarosvski crystals. The most outrageous were sunglasses from Jimmy Crystal New York with colourful over the top Swarovski embellishment. Their small stand was crowded with excited onlookers and buyers not only for sunglasses but their wide range of crystal accessories.

The French also showcased intricate filigree temple designs in stunning colour combinations with collections from Lafont, Azzaro and JF Rey and the Danish company Bellinger as standouts. These styles also seem to herald a move away from the heavy styling of the last few years with thick temples and bridges. There is a move to comfort and lightness in many of the new collections. This trend is best exemplified by brands such as Lindberg, Mykita, Urband, Gotti and Markus T with classic minimalistic shapes and colours in lightweight materials such as stainless steel and titanium. This eyewear focuses on technical excellence with unique glazing systems and advanced design in hinges.

This use of lightweight materials with a focus on comfort is further developed by companies such as German Ferdinand Menrad Group with their Joop! and Davidoff collections and the Danish company Orgreen. These companies blend lightweight materials such as stainless steel and titanium with contemporary colour combinations and striking modern architectural design.

Another trend that was noteworthy was that black is back, although it never really went away. Spectacles in black are the most versatile accessory and it is the undisputed colour of elegance in both sunglasses and acetate models for vision wear but now more fashion forward and oversized. In fact at MIDO eyewear in both optical and sun were deeper and flatter reflecting the strong influence of vintage design.

And finally, any mention of retro style wouldn’t be accurate without noting the butterfly shape. On loan from the 1950s fashions this style is now available from the top manufacturers not just the boutique designers such as French companies Filao Paris and Francis Klein. It may be that this eyewear, with its unusual upturned shape, will be the musthave accessory for the “nice but naughty look” (not my words).

MIDO’s Impact on Odmafair

MIDO underlines and defines the clear line between eyewear as a therapeutic device and a fashion accessory. Clearly meeting the needs of those people to have their eyesight corrected at the lowest cost is important, but for the independent optician looking to develop a niche, then the fashion eyewear segment is the only option. Australian independent optical retailers are spoilt for choice to achieve this.

Australian eyewear importers make available a wide selection of the quality fashion eyewear showcased at MIDO and Odmafair, held in a couple of months, is the only opportunity to experience this choice under one roof.

Odmafair, the only tradeshow in Australia and New Zealand which has positioned itself to showcase the very latest fashions from around the world in eyewear, remains an essential tool for the independent optometrist looking to keep abreast of this dynamic industry.

James Wright is the CEO of Eurostyle Eyewear. He has worked in the optical industry for seven years and, each year, travels to the major optical tradeshows to find unique pieces to add to his portfolio. This is his seventh trip to MIDO.