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Sunday / May 26.
HomemifashionDressing for Success in the Business World

Dressing for Success in the Business World

In a crowded and competitive professional working environment, it’s more important than ever to dress for success – so how can you help your customers to make their way up the business and corporate ladder?

My daughter, who is all of 16, wanted to find herself a new look the other day. She walked into an inner city hair salon and spotted the stylist. Hair severely pulled back into a bun and frames on her face that, in my daughter’s words, would have looked radical on my grandmother. She spun on her heel and walked out.

That same week I went to meet my new accountant. The young woman who came to meet me had a piercing in her nose and wore glasses that would have looked conservative on the face of Dame Edna. I think I’ll shop around.

The point here is crystal clear: eyewear not only helps the wearer see what they’re doing – it helps the wearer’s customers get a feel for the type of person they’re dealing with. Eyewear can make or break a new business relationship even before it gets going.

…these days, consumers are more likely to think of their spectacles as a fashion accessory with benefits, rather than a tool to improve vision

Help on the Career Path

So how can you help your customers to help themselves?

First impressions count. So, by asking questions and listening to your customers talk about the image they aim to present in their professional lives, you can play a big part in helping them succeed.

This is particularly true in a competitive, economically challenged and crowded environment. Whether your customer is looking for a new client or a new job, to maintain the edge, they need to look the part.

From a purely business point of view, the greatest advantage you could get from selling customers a frame to suit their professional aspirations, is that it’s more than likely you’ll go on to sell them a frame for ‘after-hours’, prescription sunglasses and perhaps a high-tech sports frame as well.

That’s because these days, consumers are more likely to think of their spectacles as a fashion accessory with benefits, rather than a tool to improve vision. One multi-purpose frame is just never enough.

Styles Of Choice

One of the most exciting things about choosing eyewear for the professional market is that, really, the options are endless. Within the description ‘professional’ are jobs in construction, manufacturing, fashion, theatre, marketing, law, finance, politics… the list goes on. So it really boils down to identifying the major professions or occupations in the area surrounding your optical practice.

As an example, if your practice sits in the trendy part of town, populated by creative studios, galleries and universities, you’d be best to focus your stock on younger, trendier and bolder frame styles.

If you’re close to factories or industrial centres or construction sites, you’ll probably need to stock some lower priced frames as well as scriptable safety eyewear.

However, if you’re in the CBD, you may need to have a more wide ranging collection that includes a mix of styles and prices to suit the typical office worker. That’s not to say you need to have one of everything on the market.

Observe the eyewear fashions of people on the street, talk to your customers about their fashion icons, and read the local papers to pick up on exactly what types of businesses – and people – are operating nearby. Collectively, this information will provide you with the background you need to build your collection.

An Opportunity to Differentiate

It’s easy to choose collections that are ‘safe’ but if you want to differentiate your practice from the competition – and your customer base warrants it – consider looking to some of the design greats from Australia and around the world.

For the more adventurous professional climbing the corporate ladder, Australia’s icon of eyewear design, Paul Taylor, has launched some fabulous boldly coloured frames with strong shapes – from round eyes to cats-eye and the ‘box knox’. Colours range from solid white to translucent purples and oranges, animal prints, stripes and everything in between.

OGI and Australia’s very contemporary Graz label have collections that sing with simplicity. Speaking of his influences for the current season’s Seraphin collection, OGI’s David Spencer said the global economy has had a significant impact.

“We’re living in a world crisis economically – there’s a distinct mood, so the styling of our collection is neo-classic to suit that mood – people don’t want to wear frames that show off ostentatious logos; they don’t want to wear brightly coloured frames that resemble a Christmas tree. What they do want is understated elegance. As a result, our Seraphin collection, which started out as retro has been morphed to become a little more sombre.” In general, he said, the OGI look is clean and simple with a depth of colour that comes from the complex acetates chosen for the production process.

Graeme Mulcahy, the strategic and creative brain behind Graz, says simplicity is also key to his design style. “I try not to pigeon hole my designs, but I aim to create simply beautiful and timeless frames that can be worn by anyone – across genders, and over time. They’re not faddy or complex or brightly coloured. It’s simple and edgy.”

At OWP, Dagmar Hagen says when it comes to gathering inspiration for her designs, she looks to “everything in life”.

“Waves come and go to influence fashion and frames… we try to translate ideas from fashion – for example, translucencies, colour blocking and patterns. Our typical female customer for OWP is a middle-aged woman – she loves decoration and colours but has a requirement for frames that will fit progressive lenses. For men, they’re interested in technical details, and the new techniques we develop for temple designs,” said Hagen.

Hagen said the market for middle-aged customers – a large chunk of the professional market – is much more exciting to design for than it was a decade ago. “Middle-aged women were once interested in wearing boring, old-fashioned frames. Now they’re looking to make a more modern statement,” she said.

Katharina Plattner began her career as a fashion designer and now designs for Andy Wolf. She couldn’t agree more. “People wear frames to make a statement… Sometimes they don’t need to see better – they just like the idea of having a frame for the face.”

A Face in Mind

She says she designs for everyone and has no typical face, personality or profession in mind. “Anyone can wear any style – as long as it’s good quality and a good design,” she said.

But at Coco Song, designer Aroun Ducroux acknowledges that his Japanese inspired French branded frames are not for everyone. And when you think about it, that makes sense … as Ducroux himself said, “What’s the point of making something for everybody because there are already so many choices out there.”

Ducroux says many of Coco’s designs are influenced by music and musicians from the 20s through to the 60s. “We design with a specific person in mind – an actor, celebrity or musician – and we embody that person’s character into the glass. We also design the frame to fit that person’s face.

“Our typical customers – the people who react to our brand – have a defined personal style – and confidence… Because the beauty of our frames is in the detail, our designs appeal to people with discriminating taste.”

When exhibiting his collection for the 30th anniversary of leading optical retailer, Bågar & Glas, in Stockholm late last year, Graeme Mulcahy said he was surprised to discover a broad market of interest for his eyewear which he had previously assumed to be more targeted at a younger audience. “I have always thought of our initial target market as being design students, but in Stockholm, where I was Guest of Honour and exhibiting alongside Oliver Peoples at Bågar & Glas, there were customers in their 70s walking out with Graz frames,” he said.

Which just goes to show, it’s worth stocking some of the more exciting frames out there because there’s no doubt that our growing population of professionals is becoming more adventurous in their styling – even as they age.

“We’re living in a world crisis economically – there’s a distinct mood, so the styling of our collection is neo-classic to suit that mood – people don’t want to wear frames that show off ostentatious logos; they don’t want to wear brightly coloured frames that resemble a Christmas tree. What they do want is understated elegance.” David Spencer: OGI

“Our typical customers – the people who react to our brand – have a defined personal style – and confidence… Because the beauty of our frames is in the detail, our designs appeal to people with discriminating taste.” – Aroun Ducroux: Coco Song

“I have always thought of our initial target market as being design students, but in Stockholm, where I was Guest of Honour and exhibiting alongside Oliver Peoples at Bågar & Glas, there were customers in their 70s walking out with Graz frames” – Graeme Mulcahy: Graz Eyewear

“People wear frames to make a statement… Sometimes they don’t need to see better – they just like the idea of having a frame for the face.”- Katharina Plattner: Andy Wolf

“Our typical female customer for OWP is a middle-aged woman – she loves decoration and colours but has a requirement for frames that will fit progressive lenses. For men, they’re interested in technical details, and the new techniques we develop for temple designs” – Dagmar Hagen: OWP