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Friday / April 19.
HomemifashionExpanding Horizons with Rx-able Sunglasses

Expanding Horizons with Rx-able Sunglasses

Scripted sunglasses are no longer seen as a luxury or an add-on purchase. Today they’re bundled up and sold alongside standard optical eyewear as part of complete package to meet your customer’s vision needs. So when it comes to choosing the lenses, which way do you go? Do you choose frames with an authentic Rx program or have the lenses fitted in an independent laboratory?

Recently I had a fashion frame fitted with progressive sun lenses. My eyesight isn’t too bad by any means (just a +1.0), but I thought it would be nice to sit on the beach and read in comfort, while also keeping half an eye on my kids in the surf.

I was right. They’re perfect and now I don’t need to rest my eyes quite as often as I did… which means I’m getting through more books and my kids are safer in the sea too. Why hadn’t I thought of doing this sooner… and why don’t my friends do the same?

I think one of the main reasons is because possibly their optometrist hasn’t suggested it. When you think about it, it’s a pretty logical sales strategy, especially in our sun-drenched country where the outdoors is a great place to be for most of the year round.

…it’s a pretty logical sales strategy, especially in our sun-drenched country where the outdoors is a great place to be for most of the year round…

I believe prescription sunglasses should be sold as part of a complete vision package. “You need reading glasses? Chances are you’ll find yourself at an outdoor restaurant on a glary day trying to choose from a menu, at the beach trying to read a book or in the park with a newspaper.

You need help with long distance vision? Did you know if you’ve been advised by a doctor to wear prescription glasses or contact lenses when you’re behind the wheel, you’re obliged to do so? – if you don’t, you’ll be a risk to yourself and to everyone around you. Let’s include prescription sunnies with your order…” Done!

Rx-able Options

There are essentially two options when it comes to helping your customers choose their prescription sunglasses – frames with authentic lenses – or proprietary lenses made up and fitted at the eyewear company’s manufacturing facility or designated lab, and frames that can be fitted with after market lenses. As that title suggests, after market lenses are ground, edged and fitted into the frame by an independent laboratory, or at your own practice.

The frame advice you give will depend on each customer’s eyesight, personal needs and frame and lens preferences. For example, if the customer is looking at a frame that comes with a proprietary Rx program, will it deliver the tints and lens coatings the customer needs for their preferred outdoor activities? Does the frame wrap allow for the prescription? Has the customer set his or her hopes on a specific brand?

Authentic Rx Lens Programs

Mondottica, Mako, Maui Jim, Bollé, Serengeti, Oakley, Eyres, Rodenstock and newcomer Zeal are some of the companies that offer proprietary rx-programs. At Maui Jim, fitting proprietary polarised and non-polarised prescription lenses into its frames is now a big part of its business and it all happens in the company’s own 7,315m2 100 per cent freeform lab in Illinois, USA. According to Richard Hoare, Managing Director of Maui Jim Australia, every Maui Jim prescription lens is a full optioned lens with nine layers of protection including the brand’s proprietary colour enhancing technology. But there are a few minor limitations.

“Our goal is to produce Rx product that mirrors our plano product. Therefore we limit our parameters from +3.00 to -6.50 and dependent on the patient’s prescription, almost 98 per cent of our collection is available with Rx lenses,” said Mr. Hoare. Turnaround from the US facility back to customers in Australia is on average, five to seven working days and a Maui Jim guarantee of authenticity is stamped on every lens.

Zeal, now owned by Maui Jim, uses the same process as its parent company and delivers frames, fitted with authentic lenses within the same tight timeframe. Only Zeal’s eyewear is a little more environmental – both frames and lenses are made from sustainable, plant based resin.

“The inclusion of castor oil into the lens as the bonding agent has really been a great achievement for us as the castor oil is a higher purity and density than the petroleum based alternatives so we get a higher quality product. The castor oil works just as a traditional plastic does in the lab,” said Zeal’s Director of Marketing, Joe Prebich.

“Really the only restriction for us is in our performance collection where we are still working to develop Rx technology for our new styles… but 90 per cent of our line is Rxable and we are working to make that 100 per cent as soon as we can,” said Mr. Prebich.

Bollé and Serengeti claim to have the most advanced, authentic Rx program on the market, with an enormous range of prescription powers from + 5.75 to -8.00 (Cyl 4.00) they say can satisfy 99 per cent of Rx wearers.

You can mix and match a frame to any of the Bollé and Serengeti lenses, which are available in polycarbonate and trivex materials.

Rodenstock has all of its lenses cut and ground in Germany before shipping them to Australia where they are fitted into frames. The company’s lab can create Rx-lenses that exactly match the plano lenses fitted into its sunglass collection – so tints, graduated tints, mirror coatings, even anti-reflective coatings on the back surface will appear exactly as they do on the shelves. “That means you can be assured that the customer will be completely satisfied with the end product,” said Ulli Hentschel, National Sales and Marketing Manager
for Rodenstock’s lens division.

Then there’s the Mako Rx Program, distributed by Mondottica. Using digitally compensated freeform for both single and progressive vision, the Mako Freeform Active lens is available in a wide range of polarised indexes including photochromic options.

“Freeform is often referred to as a design method, but in reality it’s a production method; it’s one half of the story” said Amy Hoole from Mondottica. “When combined with the optimised and compensated Mako Freeform Active design, freeform processing allows us to deliver large reductions in aberrations and a much wider field of vision in our 8-base wrap designs.

“Fitting prescriptions in wrap designs is not just about what’s technically possible in frames and lenses. It’s also about what’s wearable, comfortable and looks good,” said Ms. Hoole. She said Mondottica has constructed an easy-to-use information pack that helps eye care professionals reference scripts, frames and lenses quickly and easily to match their patient’s needs.

After-market Lenses

For sunglass frames that don’t have rx-able programs there are plenty of labs out there that offer a range of lens options to suit your patients’ budget and vision preferences.

Opticare is one and having invested in a stand alone multi-coating system, a robotic generator with a polishing system and an automated checking and blocking system, owner George Nasser says his company can manufacture a pair of stock lenses and fit them to a frame in just ten minutes.

Opticare offers Opti-premium lenses, which are manufactured in the company’s own labs, and Opti-saver, a range of imported lenses. “They’re still the same quality but because they have to be imported, the turnaround is approximately five days instead of two,” said Mr. Nasser.

At CR Surfacing Laboratories, Managing Director Adam Fletcher says the design of his company’s new Signature MD Series lens allows eye care professionals to provide patients with continuity in the optical experience across a number of different optical glasses – from office wear to sportswear and drive wear. “It’s a freeform lens that incorporates multi-directional calculations and proprietary raster surfacing technologies to aspherise the intermediate and near zones, as well as distance, for greater fields of view. It can be made in a huge range of materials and indexes, and according to people who have experienced Signature MD, it’s the closest thing you can get to single vision in a progressive lens,” he said.

Carl Zeiss has just released its most comprehensive range of tinted lenses yet and it even includes black tinted lenses (other colours are a further optimised brown, neutral grey and pioneer, which is similar to Ray Ban green).

According to Mark Thyssen, a Product Manager with Zeiss, black lenses are all the rage in Europe, and particularly popular because they hold colour over time whereas grey tinted lenses can tend towards purple as they age.

Tints are available in densities from 12 per cent to 85 per cent and they can also be graduated from 85 per cent tint at the top to 25 per cent at the bottom of the lens. Mr. Thyssen said tints can be applied to most of Zeiss’ materials (1.5. ; 1.6 ; 1.67 and polycarbonate) and either as a hard coated scratch resistant lens or with an anti-reflective coating.

In Germany, Rodenstock has the technology to supply progressive lenses for a high curve sports sunglass that take into account the measurement of the frame – including the curve, vertex, distance parameters and a pantoscopic tilt of up to 25-30 degrees. Additionally, the company has Rx-able lenses to fit large fashion sunglass frames of up to 90mm in diameter.

Prescription Driving Lenses

Today there are several Rx-able lenses that have been purpose designed for driving. Polarised to block blinding glare and featuring photochromic technology that adapts to the light conditions – from brilliant blue skies to overcast conditions – they make being on the road safer, more comfortable and less tiring.

Transitions Drivewear and Younger Drivewear adaptive sun lenses, for example, combine the glare protection of a polariser with the light control of a photochromic to provide the only polarised sun lens that adapts behind the windscreen of a vehicle. As well as its hard resin plano lenses, Drivewear is available in Single Vision, Flat Top 28, Image progressive, and polycarbonate single vision.

Weighing up theOptions

Optical Dispenser Grant Hannaford told mivision when weighing up whether to choose an authentic lens or an after market lens, it is necessary for the eye care professional to balance the patient’s desire for a specific brand with their vision needs and the specifications of the selected frame.

“By using authentic lenses you can be assured that what your patient sees and chooses from the shelf is what they will receive. Additionally, because most sunglass companies develop tints, laminates and frame technologies with their Rx-program in mind, you can be assured of the integrity of the prescription lens fitted into your patient’s chosen frame,” said Mr. Hannaford.

“However, there can be some limitations associated with using authentic lenses when it comes to choosing the most effective lens for the patient, so care must be taken to balance the patient’s needs with their expectations of a branded product.”

Mr. Hannaford said after market lenses offer eye care professionals the ability to choose from a greater range of lens materials, tints and coatings. “Many of the branded lenses are bound to specific material which can result in limitations to the available lens parameters, thus giving lesser results than would be available in other materials,” said Mr. Hannaford. He said this is particularly the case with progressive lenses. “Many branded lenses are linked to one specific progressive design because it is not cost effective to invest in the technology that allows for a range of progressive designs. From a patient’s point of view, this can result in adaptation difficulties.”

The most effective strategy for an eye care professional then, is to first understand the patient’s vision needs, then guide them towards the frames that can be fitted to best meet those needs – this will save you and your customer time and avoid any risk that your customer will choose an entirely inappropriate frame, then face disappointment.