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HomemifashionRay-Ban: The Genuine Fashion Icon

Ray-Ban: The Genuine Fashion Icon

The impact Ray-Ban eyewear has had on pop culture has been profound. Arguably, no other eyewear brand can be compared to the Ray-Ban style recognition and branding.

Ray-Ban surpasses fashion trends and social genres but has never rested on its laurels. The brand is constantly evolving and has done so at a rapid pace since its genesis in the 1930s as each generation celebrates the brand’s latest offerings.

Humble Beginnings

Ray-Ban eyewear was borne out of a request from the U.S. Air Force in 1929, for a team of optical experts to develop a new type of eyewear that would protect pilots from the sun’s glare at high altitudes, whilst still ensuring a clear field of vision.

Their creation was a success and production was increased in 1936 to produce enough frames to sell to the public. The first model, a plastic frame with an aviator shape, was promoted under the brand ‘Anti-Glare’ until the following year. The optical team registered the name ‘Ray-Ban’ in 1937, coming from the phrase ‘Banish Rays’. The new name was derived from the product’s features and benefits – blocking out glare and protecting the eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.

The Ray-Ban ‘Wayfarer’ is a “classic of modern design”, and undoubtedly one of the most enduring fashion icons of the 20th Century.

Functional to Fashionable

A seismic cultural shift occurred, changing the perception of sunglasses as a medical device to a fashion accessory, and Ray-Ban’s sunglass frames soon moved away from being purely functional, and began making their mark on Hollywood.

The Ray-Ban ‘Wayfarer’ is a “classic of modern design”, and undoubtedly one of the most enduring fashion icons of the 20th Century. Its design in 1952 symbolised a revolutionary break from the metal eyewear of the past. The popularity of Wayfarers shot up after they were featured in the classic 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Along with the inception of the Wings collection – the first shields in sunglasses history, the 1980s brought Wayfarers back into the limelight, being the ultimate accessory in films such as The Blues Brothers and Risky Business. The design has also enjoyed a very recent revival, with countless celebrities being photographed wearing Wayfarers, resulting in the eyewear becoming the ‘must-have’ fashion accessory of the late 2000s.

The 1970s saw the launch of Ray-Ban optical frames, with their point of difference being the use of their key sunglass shapes. In 1974, the company launched their first light sensitive photochromic lenses.

The last decade has seen Ray-Ban continue to expand and inspire, with their innovation in brand development and marketing. Recent years have seen the launch of the strategic brand platform ‘Forever Ray-Ban’ from which the the creative advertising campaign ‘Never Hide’ was born.

Celebrity Endorsement

Ray-Ban has featured in a diverse mix of films from Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly donning her Wayfarers in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, through to Risky Business, Reservoir Dogs and Men in Black.

The brands role in The Blues Brothers was vital to the film’s success and the use of the Aviator in Top Gun led to an increase in sales of the iconic style by 40 per cent.

Ray-Ban is the most worn brand by celebrities with the large frame Aviator (3025), original Wayfarer (2140) and Clubmaster (3016) all strutting the red carpet ahead of Tom Ford and Prada.

Orlando Bloom wearing the Wayfarer

Aviator fans include Hugh Jackman, Brad Pitt, Vince Vaughan, Kiefer Sutherland, Kate Moss, Jennifer Garner, Zac Efron, Elle Macpherson, Sienna Miller and the late Michael Jackson, who was rarely seen without his beloved aviators.

Bob Dylan, Jude Law, Drew Barrymore, Liv Tyler, Jessica Alba, Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr are often seen wearing Wayfarers whilst Kevin Bacon, Lindsay Lohan, Beyoncé, Mischa Barton and Natalie Portman are big fans of the Clubmaster.

For the complete picture just add “etc. ad infinitum” to each of the lists of celebrity endorsements above. The Ray-Ban A-list is exhaustive. It would be a rare occasion for one to flick through a magazine and not see a celebrity sporting their favourite pair of Ray-Bans. The eyewear brand has been, and continues to be a cultural icon.

Ray-Ban Today

The success of Ray-Ban lies in the fact that the brand remains consistent with their message about their heritage and authenticity, while pursuing the latest technology in both their marketing and product offerings.

An example of this is the recent ‘Remasters’ program. Designed to consolidate Ray-Ban’s strong bond with music and its positioning as a global iconic brand, the company partnered with eight international music artists who recorded a song of their choice from the 50s and 60s re-mastered exclusively for Ray-Ban and performed live in a series of three events in New York, Beijing and Milan.

The Ray-Ban style associated to this program is the 60s inspired ‘Clubmaster’ which is about to make its return to the forefront of cool and become an essential accessory for Spring/Summer 2009.

In addition, Ray-Ban will introduce two new collections for summer this year: the exuberant ‘Colorize’ collection and the contemporary Ray-Ban Tech ‘Carbon Fibre’ collection

‘Colorize’ celebrates colour across a selected range of iconic Ray-Ban styles – from the ClubMaster, Aviator, Wayfarer, Outdoorsman to the Cats ranges – neon yellow to bright pink, even metals have been given a fresh new paint job!

Although Ray-Ban has been known more for its fashion innovation, the brand continues to also invest heavily in their technical expertise. The use of carbon fibre in the Tech range, offers a sturdy, flexible, lightweight and durable frame. The lenses utilise polycarbonate and crystal which ensure exceptional polarization and provides vivid and high definition colours, while the anti-reflective coating eliminates glare and provides additional UV protection.

Ray-Ban Cats, Colorize collection

“We are living in a time of extremely active lifestyle. We are working longer and playing harder. We understand that a product should make life easier and we are always developing materials and designs which do that. The new Ray-Ban Tech collection uses the lightest weight materials to create an ultra strong pair of sunglasses while remaining extremely comfortable,” says Sara Beneventi, Ray-Ban Global Brand Director at Luxottica Group.

Ray-Ban Australia

While the overall global strategic direction for the brand is outlined by the Ray-Ban head office, Ray-Ban Australia is provided with the framework and latitude on a local level, to execute this direction in a relevant way to the local market.

Ray-Ban Australia’s Marketing Manager, Samantha De Kauwe explains that they: “consider the nuances such as seasonality, market size and the Australian consumer, when determining how we communicate the brand’s values, campaigns and product release.”

Sam adapted the Ray-Ban New York launch for the ‘Colorized’ Wayfarer range – which featured a collaboration of five artists from the States on five billboards across Manhattan – for the local launch of ‘Project Colorize’ late last year. This successful project featured five up and coming Australian artists who were commissioned to create artworks featuring the ‘Colorized’ Wayfarer.

Ray-Ban eyewear is available through Luxottica Australia. Phone (AUS) 1300 655 612 or: www.luxottica.com.au

Sharon Smith is mivision‘s fashion writer. Her eyewear columns in Australia and New Zealand have become a ‘must-read’ for both fashion-forward optical retailers and fashion editors.