Sean Rosenberg, Frames Etcetera Director, imports some seriously hip European designer eyewear. We spoke to him about his flair for forecasting fashion eyewear trends.
Frames Etcetera imports and distributes Gianfranco Ferre, Rock and Republic, John Richmond, Derepage, Ines de la Fressange, Mazzoni and, most recently, U.K. brand William Morris London.
The company’s ‘house brand’ Capri, is marketed as a ‘lifestyle brand for the budget conscious consumer’. There’s also the more sophisticated, mid-priced Capri Elite range and a sunglass range.
Rosenberg says he’s not a ‘grassroots designer’ – admitting the Capri stable follows, rather than creates, fashion trends. But he says there’s a skill in identifying niches in the market, and picking which trend to follow.
I’m actually very positive about the optical industry
Q: You bring a lot of on-trend European ranges to the Australian market, what are you looking for when you bring in your various ranges from Europe?
I believe our strength is in forecasting and predicting which fashion trends will do best in the Australian market. We are very careful that we don’t bring in multiple ranges that clash with each other, so that we’re not repeating ourselves.
We’re also looking for gaps in the market. For example, Derepage – an designer Italian brand – is a fabulous range for men looking for that technical edge. But we might only bring in a limited range of Derepage product to fill that niche.
On the more experimental side, we look to designers like Gianfranco FERRE , who will appeal to people wanting something that is a bit more cutting edge.
Q: Do you have a favourite brand at the moment?
Excluding our own brand, Capri, I’m intrigued by a range we signed at the end of last year: William Morris London. They have developed a particular niche, which suits the early 20s to late 40s age group really, really well. It is a very difficult niche and he’s done a particularly good job of it – using metals and retro plastics – it’s very marketable. He’s got all the design features – all the quality features – at a good price.
Q: What do you see happening with optical and sunglass fashion over the next year.
A bit of a blend, I guess. Retro will continue to be strong (both in optical and sunglasses), particularly with the European ranges. Everyone talks about oversize frames falling away, but I don’t think that’s the case. In the sunglasses, oversize will still be big. The big brands are selling many oversize products, although there is a retro element for sunglasses as well.
Sunglasses have gone back to being a little ‘in your face’, more ‘bling’. But with optical we’ll see less bling, shapes that are more straight-forward, more retro, a lot of blacks, browns and variations of brown.
Australians tend to make more of a statement with sunglasses rather than optical. People are willing to spend more on fashion sunglasses.
To be honest, the trends in optical at the moment are being driven by the budget retailers like Specsavers who push budget products in their advertising. People see this product being promoted but they’re not seeing much cutting edge or premium products from the budget optical retailers.
There are some very nice products out there but not super adventurous – easy to wear, nice materials. Colour is really, really important.
We have to give independent retailers access to a very wide range of styles and to a very wide range of price points. Our focus is on independent optometrists… even though the ‘old-guard’ is saying “they’re a dying breed”…
Q: Do you think independents are a dying breed?
No, not at all! I think the best operators will always survive and thrive – those that can offer the best product and service. We pride ourselves on our service and on being across a broad range of products so that we can compete.
I’m actually very positive about the optical industry. We’re as busy as we ever have been, and while there’s a big competitive edge in the industry, we’re out there looking to expand. We don’t worry about other wholesalers – it is not our focus. Our focus is on what we’re doing and our own (business) patterns.
Obviously, Luxottica and Specsavers are having an impact on the industry. You’d be lying if you didn’t say that. Of course that impacts indirectly on our business. We don’t try focus on the competition but on how should adapt our product offering or our business.
We see our role, very much, as trying to help independent optometrists compete. It is definitely harder (since the global financial crisis hit). I’m pretty sure people are finding it harder, but I don’t think that’s just (the optical) market. I think it is part of the retail trend generally.
In times like these, optometrists should be concentrating on their core service offering and premium products. As we look to the business future (of Frames Etcetra), we’ll perhaps be more conservative in our approach, and make sure we’re doing what we do to the best of our ability.
Q: If you had one piece of business advice, what would it be?
Get good people in your office and look after your customers. You have got to surround yourself with good people that believe in your business – and you’ve got to service your customers exceptionally well. In bad times, and in good times, they’ll remember that.