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Wednesday / June 19.
HomemifashionAn Eye for Fashion

An Eye for Fashion

Australia is known for its stunning beaches, harbour cities and unusual wildlife; but we don’t think of our homeland as the epicentre of fashion. Today however, Australian designers are proving themselves to be major players on the world fashion stage with their labels highly sought after both at home and abroad.mivision speaks to four local eyewear designers about what gets their creative juices flowing, how the financial crisis has affected style and what to expect for eyewear fashion in 2010 and beyond…

The Australian fashion industry has grown out of a landscape of casual natural beauty with a strong multicultural vein, lending us our own distinctive style.

Australian eyewear is no exception and particularly with our harsh Aussie sun and awareness of eye health, we are now well abreast of the latest eyewear trends and setting many of our own.

For ladies’ eyewear, retro looks will continue. Cats’ eye shapes along with rectangular shapes will be big. Acetate material will be popular and we will see much more colour such as bolder greens, purples and reds.

Artistic Inspiration

So where exactly does an eyewear designer seek inspiration? “Everywhere really”, is Inta Optical designer Jaimee Tuza’s response.

“Travelling to trade fairs, reading fashion magazines, as well as things like jewellery and accessories, particularly in metal designs. I work with the notion that designs that are used for accessories can also be used for glasses.”

Jaimee has been with Inta Optical for three years designing eyewear for Charlie Brown and the newly added Carla Zampatti brand, which is currently being launched “The designs I create also depend on the brand I am working with. Charlie Brown and Carla Zampatti give me an overview of their collections with fabric swatches for colour and prints and the general ‘feeling’ for their next collections.”

“I do a lot of colour and trend forecasting by following the latest fashions and trying to predict what will come next, what styles and colours will be popular. I also take inspiration from other designers I like such as Marc Jacobs – I’m inspired by his approach to fashion; his attention to detail but trend towards minimalism.”

Alana Taylor, designer for Karen Walker, Flint, Ksubi and Tigerlily at Sunshades Eyewear, seeks inspiration for her eyewear designs from movies, old music videos and books. “These are the main places where I find my goodies and grab onto concepts. I saw (the Quentin Tarantino film) Inglourious Basterds recently and it gave me some ideas for designs for Flint Eyewear which I am excited about. I always like looking back at older movies too, particularly for vintage styles. Jaws is one of my particular favourites, and anything with Michael Cain in it is bound to have good eyewear references!”

When asked if she could design eyewear for any celebrity living or dead Alana hesitates. “Yikes, that’s a hard one!” But she has got someone in mind: Jack White, the lead singer, guitarist and pianist of rock band The White Stripes. White’s gothic fashion sense combined with his long, wavy black hair, white skin and perpetual dark circles around his eyes have turned the musician into an edgy fashion icon. Somehow, White manages to pull off the sombre look with sex appeal and style. “I feel he would be a great ambassador for Flint. I always have him in mind when I work on the collection so it would be cool to actually have his opinion on some designs.”

The Frames Etcetera team, who produce the eyewear brand Capri Elite, attend most of the international optical fairs to seek inspiration for trends in styling and colours and to gain some insight into new materials that are growing in popularity. Capri Elite is designed by Sean Rosenberg and his business partner, Brian Witkin.

According to Sean, his local customers are a major source of inspiration for his products: “We listen very closely to what our customers would like to see in the following season. After all, what we are trying to develop is a successful commercial brand completely from the ground up.”

Originally, Frames Etcetera was purely a wholesale business of various eyewear brands, so the design element was an evolution. “We identified a design niche in what could be termed ‘house brands’ to specifically design and manufacture eyewear that is suited to the Australian marketplace both in practical terms and pricing and with its own identity,” he says.

For Roger Henley, owner and designer of the boutique eyewear company of the same name, inspiration for the designs of his brightly coloured acetate frames comes to him from interesting architecture and cars. “I memorise the lines and the way shadows work, store them in the memory bank and then it will come out as an expression in a new pair of frames.”

Roger Henley made his first pair of acetate frames in a lean-to laundry in his backyard 22 years ago. Today, the self-confessed plastic fanatic is still creating his frames by hand, but he now has over 500 colours and just as many different styles. “I actually seek inspiration from my own designs too. I take something I made before and change the shape or colour. I love playing with different colours. The Roger Henley brand is noted for using colours that other people aren’t game enough to use. God gave us eyes to see colour, so why not make the most of it!”

Has The GFC Hindered Design?

From Roger’s perspective, eyewear design was not impacted by the global financial crisis (GFC) at all. “There are still a varied range of frames out there. There is a retro look coming in with darker colours, but I think that is more of an industry trend not based on the GFC.”

Alana from Sunshades has a slightly different view. She says that while the GFC may have had an impact on design trends to some degree, prior to the global meltdown, fashion was already moving towards more minimalist trends and cutting back on embellishments. “So, when we were faced with the GFC and eyewear designs started to pull back a bit, it actually confirmed what we were working on anyway. I have always had a simple approach in my collections, not a lot of hardware or logos which stand out amongst other complex designs.”

Jaimee from Inta Optical agrees that “some brands have pulled back from out-there designs”, but she says that in Australia “we think that if people need glasses, they need glasses and they’ll buy them regardless.”

“They won’t want to buy something conservative if that isn’t who they are. Some conservative designs work and sell well, but there will always be consumers looking for something different… something out-there. You can find a pattern of black and brown because a conservative trend is in, but I don’t feel that design has been particularly restricted because of the GFC.”

Fashion Forecast

Alana predicts that in 2010, round eyewear styles will be dominant and will appear in varying sizes and colours. “There will be a focus towards metals with a fresh and new feel and possibly even some rimless variations will start popping up.”

According to Sean from Frames Etcetera; “for sunglasses, vintage looks and oversized shapes will still be in, but we will be seeing more adventurous colours like reds and greens.

“For men, expect strong masculine looks including the aviator shapes. We will also see more use of durable and lighter materials like titanium. Large and bolder styles will be in. For younger guys, 50’s styling will continue to get stronger using light and comfortable plastic material. Black colouring will also be strong.

“For ladies’ eyewear, retro looks will continue. Cats’ eye shapes along with rectangular shapes will be big. Acetate material will be popular and we will see much more colour such as bolder greens, purples and reds.”

Jaimee agrees that oversized glasses will be in this year, but she says they will start to tone down a bit from the excessive frames we have seen the last few seasons. “And aviator styles, we’ll see more of these because they are always in”.

“Carla (Zampatti) is doing multi-colour frames, a lot of them in acetate with two-tone striped temples. Red and purple are featured a fair bit as they are fairly popular right now as well as cream, black, brown, white and tortoiseshell.” But overall the collection is elegant and mature and sophisticated so the colours are used in a way that reflects that.

In 2010, Jaimee says the colours that will be popular for sunglasses include red, purple, crystal brown, dark crystal grey and bottle green. For optical eyewear, gold, gunmetal and acetates with bright prints will be growing in popularity.

“Crystal brown is coming into its own because it’s not as harsh on the face as black. Green, purple and navy are also popular. We have one really dark bottle green model and it has been selling so well that we’ve just reordered it. Black and white is also really big. Charlie Brown’s black and white glasses sold out straight away and we’re now designing more.

“Charlie Brown is doing a lot of metal decorations on the temples, kind of a jewellery feel. And Charlie always has some animal prints – which is one of her signature looks. But the print and design will change every year. She provides me with the print she is using in her newest collection and I will develop this into acetate frames. I can use the exact print or colours, but often I will change them by scaling them down or using the colours but not the exact print. Different patterns work for different fashions and eyewear doesn’t always work with her exact prints, the scale needs to be appropriate for the product so I adjust the prints or styles to work for glasses.

“The other day I had a discussion with Charlie about what she’s doing for 2010 and she has identified a few different themes drawing from different decades: 70’s disco and embellishment, 60’s psychedelic prints, and 50’s animal prints/styling and vintage florals reminiscent of Mrs Robinson and she said “What if we do some bright yellow sunglasses?” I am open to all suggestions and will incorporate yellow into a print or use it on the temples, but we also need to be mindful that colours that work in clothing do not always look good on the face or appeal to too small a market. It doesn’t always work for eyewear to do things that are too fashion inspired or over the top.”

Roger Henley, who doesn’t always swim with the tide in his designs, believes it’s going to be another year of the nerdy, geek chic look. “The darker colours and the larger styles of frames which arrived on the eyewear scene three or four years ago, that’s the way we’re going to be heading in 2010 again. Initially I wasn’t so keen on them, but the retro styles are growing on me now.”

“I’m an angular person: I love angles and directional, sharp edges, whereas the retro stuff is quite soft. But they’re growing on me because I can add my own spin to them. For example, the cats’ eye glasses that are fashionable now I like to make look really sharp – like they could poke someone’s eye out!

You have to change with the times and unfortunately we have to follow trends to a point… but I still do my own thing.”

The New Black In Eyewear

There is a difference in opinion about what will emerge this year as the ‘must have’ trends in eyewear. In order to lock down exactly what styles to expect in 2010, we pose the question: “What will be the new black?”

  • Alana: Bold, dark colours like black and tortoiseshell, as well as some metallic frames in new aviator styles. Round eyewear is set to be big in a variety of sizes.
  • Jaimee: Crystal brown because it is not as harsh on the face. Black and white, dark bottle green, plus a few braver colours like dark purple, red and navy. Acetate frames in two-tone or fashion prints such as stripes.
  • Sean Rosenberg: More colour such as bold greens, purples and reds. Black and darker colours will be big in acetate frames in vintage styles.
  • Roger Henley: Black is the new black! Darker shades, tortoiseshell and dark green. ‘Geek’-style acetate frames.