So much has changed in a generation. Today’s parents spent their childhood in a world where mobile phones, computers, the internet and social media were non-existent. For today’s children, it is a markedly different environment. By the age of five, statisticians tell us, more than 50 per cent of children regularly interact with a computer or tablet and by the time they’re in high school, our kids spend more time on the internet and social media than with their parents or teachers.Not surprising then that a) all that online activity is causing an increase in vision problems, partly associated with overuse of electronic devices and b) that if and when they do need vision correction, their exposure to the so-called global village will influence their opinions.
Bonastar created its Mars Fashion label for young adults. After all, that was the age bracket that was looking for on-trend fashion eyewear. But when the Australian-based company produced a smaller range aimed at adults with narrow faces, it fortuitously fell into a whole new market segment: fashion-precocious kids.
“Seven years ago, when we first created the brand Mars Fashion, the whole collection was designed for young people in their 20s to 30s,” Bonastar General Manager Emily Xu said, when asked about the genesis of Mars Fashion Kids.
“Two years later, we made a smaller version for one of the best-selling models, and intended to sell it to adults with narrow faces. However, to our surprise, the frame fit was even better for teens and became very popular in retail stores. Also, as there are more and more children experiencing vision problems, partially due to overuse of electronic devices, we really saw a potential market in kids’ and teens’ fashion eyewear at reasonable prices.
as there are more and more children experiencing vision problems… we really saw a potential market in kids’ and teens’ fashion eyewear at reasonable prices
“Therefore, we made the decision to start our new Mars Fashion Kids collection in 2013. The kids’ frames now account for 20 per cent of total Mars fashion frames. As the market needs grow, we may rebrand the kids’ range sometime next year.
“Kids are now becoming more fashion conscious. They think glasses are fashion accessories rather than just vision correction tools.
“My six-year-old daughter just had her eyes tested last week, and it turns out she has a bit of astigmatism in both eyes. The optom told her if she doesn’t take care of her eyes she’ll need a pair of glasses soon but, to my surprise, she said she is more than happy to have one pair now.”
Ms. Xu said the inspiration for Mars Fashion Kids “mainly comes from nature, such as flowers, wild animals, rocks, forests, beaches, and in general those things that have not been affected by human intervention”.
The kids’ collection, Ms. Xu said, stays true to the Mars “brand DNA” with designers ensuring it is “in line with hot eyewear fashion trends”.
But there’s an additional consideration in designing kids’ eyewear: “Movie characters, pop icons, and cartoons influence our design. At one stage, we heard that teenage boys were coming to retail stores asking for frames just like Harry’s (fictional wizard Harry Potter). The popular Frozen movie release last year created a big demand for light blue colour frames for little girls. My daughter even asked me if I can design frames with Frozen-inspired snowflakes featured on the temples!”
Ms. Xu said kids’ frames demand “lighter, stronger, and more flexible materials and parts”.
“Now there are more than 20 models in the range… made from acetate, rubber, TR90, ultem, and memory metal.
“It’s necessary for parents to educate their little ones to look after their glasses, and don’t play with them just like toys, but we understand it’s hard to prevent damages. We provide a one-year-warranty that can cover any fault or damage. For most school boys and some active girls, ultem and memory metal (frames) with an enhanced bridge and hinges are better choices.
“For very active children, we have stylish eyeglass chains they can wear with our frames. They are especially handy if glasses are required for sport since they can be taken on and off continually.”
So what’s the future for kids’ eyewear? With one eye on fashion runways and the other on popular youth culture, Ms. Xu is predicting a year of tortoiseshell.
“There are more needs in tortoiseshell eyewear. We have seen a lot of variations to the classic tortoise colours, such as spotted or marbled effect, and subtle torts with vibrant pops of colour. It may continue for some time. We will probably see more gradient and two-tone colour blocking in eyewear design, featuring the same runway trend.”
And… you never know… maybe the odd Elsa-inspired snowflake or two.
Choosing Kids’ Frames
When children need glasses, it is important to remember that you have more than one customer. There’s the parent (who is paying) and the child (who has to wear them). Their priorities may not necessarily align, so here are some tips to avoid the need to adjudicate an awkward domestic argument.
1. Clearly explain how lens thickness impacts on frame selection. There’s no point getting a child’s heart set on a particular style if it won’t work.
2. While the parent will rightly demand input, particularly when it comes to excluding frames that are out of budget, children are more likely to be happy with their glasses if they can choose them. Some parents may need to be gently reminded that what they think is “in”
may be outdated in their child’s world.
3. Even if children are excited by their new look, they’re not going to wear their glasses if they’re uncomfortable. Explain the importance of spending the time to get the right bridge fit and temple style.
4. Optical staff need to explain the features of various frames. Are they hypoallergenic, lightweight, flexible, durable, safe-to-wear? These are all important factors, particularly for
parental decision making.
5. If children are reluctant to wear glasses, encourage parents to do a little research into their child’s favourite actors, singers, or cartoon characters. Many young celebrities – former 1D singer Zayn Malik, actor Kristen Stewart, singers Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift, and Nickelodeon regulars Ariana Grande and Jennette McCurdy – have been snapped wearing funky optical frames in real life.