Shades of Luxury - Luxury Travel Magazine

Shades of Luxury

By: Alice Coomans, Issue 26 – Summer 2006
(Sunglasses, Burberry, Celine, Chanel, Diesel Dior, Dita, Foster Grants, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Sceats Eyewear, La Perla, Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, Oroton, Prada, Ray-Ban)


Picture the glamour of the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Onassis. One essential style accessory they embraced was a pair of alluring sunglasses, not only to hide a multitude of sins, but to create the instant aura of style and sophistication. Since the days of Hepburn and Onassis, and their signature large dark shades, this once simple, practical accessory has become the stuff of Hollywood glamour and catwalk fashion, and taken on a life of its own.

Sunglasses as we know them have had a relatively short presence in the history pages. Sam Foster – founder of the Foster Grant Company – reportedly sold the first modern pair of sunglasses in 1929 in Atlantic City. It was the cleverly promoted “Who’s that behind those Foster Grants?” US campaign in the 1960s that saw celebrities such as Peter Sellers, Anthony Quinn, Mia Farrow, Robert Goulet, Julie Christie, Woody Allen, Raquel Welch, Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave don the brand that catapulted sunglasses squarely into the realm of high fashion and celebrity glamour. This season’s offerings are a tribute to this chic era, with all the top-drawer designers releasing collections of oversized, stylised pieces. Peter Polovin, head of the design division at Sceats Eyewear (which has a permanent display in the design section of Sydney’s Powerhouse museum), says Australia is at the forefront of current fashion trends, despite the lag in seasons between the southern and northern hemispheres. “Australia is very universal and very up-to-date, even though we are so far away from the fashion capitals,” says Polovin. “The younger trendy man is wearing bigger sunnies, large lenses and trendy squarer shapes. For women of all ages, bigger is better.” And he can be confident saying it. During last summer in the US, outsize frames accounted for 20 per cent of all sunglasses sales, according to James Spina, editor of 20/20, an eyewear trade monthly.

Top fashion names such as Gucci, Chanel and Prada are bringing out oversized, bold ranges in Australia in an array of colours (including the return of tortoiseshell) for men and women this summer. Complementing these, daring shapes such as La Perla’s hexagonal frame in classic colours, are providing unique and audacious additions to the 2006 women’s ranges.

But if sales in the US are anything to go by, Los Angeles company Dita has the cream of the crop when it comes to oversized frames. Dita’s giant Supa Dupas, an extra-large classic black design, have been the pick of Hollywood celebrities. It was the Olsen twins’ very public endorsement that apparently put big sunglasses back on the fashion map this year. So much so that Dita has had trouble keeping up with the demand for Supa Dupas in the US. “There’s also a trend towards more bling, and what we are seeing is some really over-the-top bling on some brands,” says Polovin.

Indeed, even the new Sceats collection sports some subdued bling. Its Sorrento sunglasses feature embedded jewels along their arms. Dior’s new collection is also sparkling – with Strass (tiny pieces of crystal) sprinkled around the frames’ temples and the exclusive cannage motif also highlighted by Swarovski Strass. Other brands such as Chanel, Oroton and Louis Vuitton (pictured opposite) are also featuring the trend in their sparkling female collections.

“It is definitely about making a statement,” says Brenda Galea, a product development/design manager for Oroton. “Bling has really taken off in all accessories this year – handbags, shoes, jewellery, belts and, of course sunglasses. It’s the ultimate indulgence in accessories. It has that old-world Hollywood glamour and charm.”

But if big and bold doesn’t suit, Ray-Ban’s Aviators, those icons of classic design, are making their mark again this season for men and women. The glasses were originally released to the public in 1937 after they’d been developed to protect aviators from the dangers of high-altitude glare. “The Aviator shape has been in for ages and never seems to go away,” says Polovin, “Every year one sees a variety of styles with this iconic design. The shape is flattering and suits most wearers. There are Aviators in smaller sizes for the mature wearer, and one sees the younger, trendier set wearing larger ones. I love it and hope it never dies.” Big names such as Ray-Ban, Diesel and Prada are featuring the style this summer in classic and modern variations, and in bold colours such as sparkling gold. In a contemporary take on the traditional, Celine has also designed a pair in which the perforated logo becomes the bridge of the sunglasses, a discreet link to the Aviator style.

This use of a logo or motif has developed into an art in today’s designer sunglasses, so much so, that it is often considered one of the most important features. This season, Giorgio Armani has released the new GA logo, a Japanese inspired medallion monogram, which it is flaunting as “the ultimate highlight of the sunglasses collection”. Gucci has released a new horse bit and buckle motif, and Burberry its new icon detailing of a horse logo and riveted plaque; while Miu Miu has incorporated tortoiseshell colours with exaggerated graphic designs of roses down the arm of its sunglasses. Louis Vuitton’s maiden collection of sunglasses also features that hallmark of designer sunglasses, a signature logo – with a twist. The new collection, available in Australia (exclusively at the Louis Vuitton new concept store in Sydney), features Monsieur Louis Vuitton’s original signature sourced from the Paris archives. The autograph will be engraved on the inside left arm of each handmade and hand polished acetate frame. The collection will include eight individual styles created in a collaboration between designer Marc Jacobs, Pharrell Williams (Esquire’s Best Dressed Man 2005) and Nigo (owner of Japanese fashion label A Bathing Ape), and inspired by Brian De Palma’s 1983 movie Scarface. The return to the Hollywood-star glamour or rock-and-roll edginess of sunglasses offers a sensational selection for fashion lovers. As Polovin says,“The look this season is pure classic.”

Sunglasses in Australia have always faced a unique challenge: the harsh Australian light conditions. In a country where it is estimated that ultraviolet radiation causes 10 per cent of all cataracts, the protection afforded by sunglasses is as important as their design and style. In 1971, Australia became the first country to introduce a national standard for sunglasses and is still one of the few to have one, along with the UK, Germany, France and the US. The Australian Cancer Council recommends you purchase and wear sunglasses that meet the standard and that are designed to wrap around your face to prevent both long- and short-term damage to the eye. "Australian sunglasses standards are the most stringent in the world, so the consumer is guaranteed to purchase a product that will meet sunglasses standards around the globe," says Brenda Galea from Oroton. Polarising lenses are also an advantage in the bright Australian sun, as they reduce horizontally reflected glare, such as that off the surface of water. Polarising lenses are made not only in the classic grey, green and brown, but in the bright fashion colours available this season.

Foster Grants:
Giorgio Armani:
Sceats Eyewear:
La Perla:
Louis Vuitton:
Miu Miu:

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