With both bold shapes and interesting lenses, pick up a pair of the statement sunglasses throwing other frames into the shade
Slip on a pair of oversized sunglasses with reflective lime lenses and exotic fruit glittering high above the brows, and heads will turn. Just one of these three elements would do the trick. Dolce & Gabbana pulled out all the stops with this particular summertime creation. The combination of shape and colour – a bold frame as well as an interesting lens – serves a double statement hit, and is a look that independent designers, fashion houses and manufacturing titans are adopting alike.
“People like to say they hide behind sunglasses, but I don’t think so,” says eyewear designer Tom Davies. “Sunglasses bring symmetrical lines to the face – and beauty is symmetry. That’s why people tend to like wearing sunglasses in general, and they’ve become much more of an adventurous fashion item.” Simon Jablon, CEO and creative director of Linda Farrow, agrees: “Bold has become the new classic.”
One catalyst for this year’s profusion of increasingly exciting sunglasses has been fashion houses taking ownership of their eyewear lines – previously licensed to groups such as Safilo or Luxottica – and promoting them on the catwalks, says Davies.
One of the biggest players is now luxury goods holding company Kering, which introduced its eyewear division in 2014. It owns Gucci, which showed its first in-house collection last October (although production will remain with its former licenser, Safilo, until 2020).
The most arresting styles start with unusual shapes. Another brand within Kering’s stable is Boucheron, which will launch a striking yellow and red gold-plated owl frame this autumn. The avian eye shape will be a limited edition of 300, with double-shaded, anti-reflective and oleophobic lenses, meaning they are less prone to smudges.
Christopher Kane, also under Kering and taking inspiration from nature, has a butterfly with gold, rose or blue nylon lenses – lightweight and durable, with a scratch-resistant coating – set in a metal surround, and a large jewel on each temple. Alexander McQueen, meanwhile, has fashioned a cutaway lens edge that, in lilac and with a Swarovski-studded diagonal black bar, mixes retro nostalgia and rock ’n’ roll. At Safilo’s Marc Jacobs, horizontal heart-shaped frames are encircled by a string twist of metal; on other styles a thread runs across a centimetre from the top, skimming the sightline.
“Sunglasses aren’t perceived as just a tool anymore, but as a proper fashion item,” says Seamus Healy, head of product and planning at David Clulow. “There is a new appetite for eye-catching styles that have the power to completely change an outfit. In the current mood where ‘more is more’, it’s easy to see why lots of sunglasses feature both bold frames and bold lenses.”
Cutler and Gross is independently owned and has its own factory in the Dolomites. Here, 41 craftsmen are in control of their own tasks for producing each model, from barrelling to hinges and polishing. Each frame takes four to six weeks to make by hand. The factory also experiments with new materials and techniques – including a frame cut from a single sheet of metal for a pair of new round, bridged sunglasses with red lenses and acetate rims.
“We treat our metal frames as we treat our acetate, cutting the metal from plates rather than using soldering techniques,” says the brand’s design director, Marie Wilkinson. “You get unusual sculptural effects and interesting surfaces instead, playing with form.”
The temples are made by hand and cylindrical; trickier to create than most, which are flat. “These have a really strong impact when you wear them. They’re reassuringly bold,” says Wilkinson. “People want to express themselves,” she continues. “It’s more about the whole look, and accessories being as important – if not more important – than clothing. A pair of sunglasses is much more easily spotted than a new handbag or shoes. When you first meet someone you don’t look at their feet... you look at their eyes.”
Aesthetic appeal aside, fun lenses boast different qualities depending on their colour. “Tints can impact the performance of athletes, spectators and outdoor lovers,” says Tessa Forde, optometrist at David Clulow on Wigmore Street. Grey solid tints give a natural colour perception and are well-suited for driving, golf, running, cycling and most outdoor activities.
Brown or amber tints filter blue light and are best for brightening vision on cloudy days. “They are especially good for use against grass and sky, so best for fishing, golf, hunting, cycling and water sports,” adds Forde.
This season, soft, faded lenses rule the roost in pastel colours – the kind that complete a look beneath a wide-brimmed hat. There’s more than a touch of the Italian Riviera in Linda Farrow’s next collection, featuring delicate twisted ribbon frames in rose, yellow and white gold metal, as well as lighter lens colours.
One pair in particular, with a scalloped ravioli-style rim (pictured below, bottom left), is made using titanium moulding and nylon lenses. They can also come with the company’s signature precious plated lenses – titanium covered in 18- to 22-carat gold, rose gold or platinum, then sealed into a mirror coating.
Trends are moving fast, says Davies, and have been lens-led for the past few years. He leans towards darker colours and only uses Zeiss lenses (these reduce glare, increase contrast and protect eyes while driving, with clear vision up to the very edge of the lens).
Davies expects graduated tints to be the next trend, but in stronger colours. “The reason is that tinted lenses look great but aren’t much use as a sunglass,” he explains, when considering everyday use. “They can cut out UV but aren’t very comfortable on the eyes.” A lens that is dark at the top and clear at the bottom will block out more rays – as well as being fashionable.
Graduated tints fade to a lighter shade at the bottom of the lens, as seen in another new pair from Dolce & Gabbana. Surrounded by a ring of Swarovski crystals and tiny embossed beads, its lenses come in grey, pink or blue gradients. “Graduated tints are ideal for reading in the garden or on the beach,” says Forde, “especially if you are off to somewhere sunny for your holidays.”
Reflective mirrored lenses continue to enjoy a day in the sun – and offer extra protection against it – this season at three Luxottica-licensed brands. Prada’s latest rim-less Cinéma model is angular with semi-flat mirrored lenses and pastel acetate temple tips. “These come from a collection that stands out for its blend of sophisticated elegance and avant-garde design,” says Healy. “It’s a melting pot of vintage inspirations and conceptual structures, modern and futuristic.”
At Ray-Ban, mirrored lenses come with a maple, walnut or cherry frame, and elsewhere with multi-coloured gradients that are more psychedelic than 21st-century cool. “Colourful acetates are also quintessential Alain Mikli,” adds Healy. “Every year it develops several new colours and patterns inspired by a cultural exchange with the art and fashion worlds.” This year, the French-Armenian designer draws on the Memphis Movement with a 1980s round pale pink or blue reflective lens, and double acetate eyebrows decorated in stripes and zigzags.
Exuberant prints take sunglasses another step further. Saint Laurent brings molten lava to life with mirror oil rainbow lenses; Fendi emblazons its logo on coral disks; Dior has added a trio of irregular stripes to its equally irregular frame by way of a multi-layer coating. This allows up to 12 different layers on the same lens, finished by intense polishing to make the designs shine through.
In autumn, Pomellato will introduce a double-bridged pair with a graphic floral pattern in gold or electric pink and black. Far from the original intent of dark aviators, they are bright and funky, with anti-reflective lenses and a layered mirror-coating.
Lenses can be decorated using screen printing with a fabric mesh in a similar way to T-shirts. A thick light-reactive substance is applied that makes holes in the original coating, then a layer of paint pressed into the ‘holes’. Other techniques include hand tinting – dipping normal lenses into tints, turning them into a sunglass – or washing away designs from a grey or brown lens that has been mirrored, revealing its original colour. These styles may be less hard wearing than plain or reflective lenses, but all that is left is to strike a pose.