Home Featured Eyecare Retail Executives Talk Trends, Sustainability – WWD

Eyecare Retail Executives Talk Trends, Sustainability – WWD

Eyecare Retail Executives Talk Trends, Sustainability – WWD

Eyewear sits at a special intersection: it’s both a medical device, found at an optometrist’s office, and a fashion accessory found on the runway of many luxury brands. It’s a popular topic on social channels, with conversations around trends, sustainability and overall eye care. Here, WWD talks to three executives at U.S eyewear offices about trends and more.

Meera Dua, chief merchandising officer at AEG Vision.

Meera Dua, chief merchandising officer, AEG Vision

WWD: How have you seen eye care shift post-pandemic? There was an upswing from working from home, and now as people return to offices. Has that presented new concerns for your customer?

Meera Dua: The eyeglass industry was fortunate enough to remain strong through the pandemic.  Customers wore glasses a lot more often working from home than they were at the office. Spending so much time on the computer has caused a need for more innovation in lens technology such as blue light lens technology. Eyeglasses have become such a key accessory item that we fortunately haven’t seen a change since folks have returned to the office. 

WWD: What are some eyewear trends you see in frame shape?

M.D.: Geometric, octagon eyewear shapes are popping up all over in all materials. Metal was up-trending the last few years and is still popular, but we are starting to see acetate come back strong, especially with more pops of color. The crystal trend we have seen for years is still there, but has shifted to more translucent colors such as light pink, blue and green instead of a pure crystal.

WWD: Are there trends you see customers gravitating toward in lenses, for example UV, or lenses that suit a sport?

M.D:. Blue light lenses have gained tremendously in popularity since the pandemic. More of the population started working and studying from home and spending a lot more time on their computers and phones leading to tired, dry, red eyes. Blue light lenses help block the harmful light rays emitted from these devices and are important to help protect eyes. Antireflective eyewear coating also remains strong for eyeglasses and polarized is still prevalent for sunglasses.

Silhouette’s rimless frames.

WWD: What are some recent eyewear innovations that your customer is looking for?

M.D.: We are seeing a lot more requests for lightweight frames. Working from home has led to more customers wearing their glasses more often and they are looking for comfort as well as style and color.  The majority of frames are still manufactured in China, Europe and Japan, but we are seeing a lot more vendors introduce eyewear lines made in America. 

WWD: How do you does the topic of sustainability resonate with your consumer?

M.D.: Sustainably made frames are popping up more and more each year and are becoming more prevalent in the industry. That being said, we have not had customers looking or asking for sustainably made eyewear. They would feel better knowing they purchased a sustainable frame but thus far it hasn’t been influencing their purchasing decision. They are still being driven by the look of the style.

Kerry Salsberg, Optometrist, Eyes on Sheppard

WWD: How have you seen eye care shift post pandemic? There was an upswing from working from home, and now as people return to offices. Has that presented new concerns for your customer?

Kerry Salsberg: Pre-COVID-19, there would be demand for early-morning or late-afternoon appointments. With the trend toward working from home, our customers are often more flexible with their work schedules and this has resulted in reduced congestion and busy periods in the office. We also seem to be better staffed to accommodate patients throughout the day as opposed to dealing with increased traffic during peak periods.   

WWD: How is the market for blue light glasses?

K.S.: It’s amazing how many patients inquire about blue light-blocking glasses. I often get young teens and college students asking for blue light plano glasses and coatings for Rx wear. It seems that social media has done a good job of educating consumers about the detrimental effects of blue light. While cumulative blue light can be harmful, I believe that blue light blocking is more important with sunwear as the amount of blue light exposure is exponentially higher outdoors as compared to digital devices. As an eye care professional, it’s reassuring to see that eye health and visual comfort is important to more and more people.  

WWD: What are some trends you see in frame shapes?

K.S.: We are seeing bigger and bolder looks in sunwear with an emphasis on boxy styles and angular upsweeps. Optical, on the other hand, is trending more toward lighter materials and softer shapes.   Refined elegance, a more uniform color palette, and less bling is a popular theme in optical these days.

Carrera’s acetate aviators.


WWD: What do you think drives trends in eyewear?

K.S.: Social media is by far the greatest force in driving eyewear trends while subscription streaming services is a close second. TikTok, Instagram and Pinterest give consumers instant access to today’s fashion eyewear trends and brands. Streaming services also provide incredible exposure of eyewear brands to Millennials and Gen Z populations.

WWD: What are some strong trends you see in eyewear currently?

K.S.: Sustainability is a big buzz word in eyewear. Eco-friendly packaging and recycled plastics are resonating with consumers and influencing purchase decisions. As a result, we are seeing a greater emphasis on minimalism, thinner frame designs and more translucent color themes in acetate.   

WWD: What are some recent eyewear innovations that your customer is looking for?

K.S.: Customers are more excited about a unique brand story as opposed to branding on eyewear. They are searching out small batch frame lines, handmade craftsmanship, innovative designs and lighter materials. They are looking at unique design elements like temple treatments and nose pad materials.  Personalization in frame design is also gaining in popularity and the technology to produce customized eyewear is now available at a price point that is reasonable.

WWD: What are your thoughts on sustainability?

K.S.: Global warming, rising coastal water levels and mainland droughts are top-of-mind throughout the world. People are realizing that unbridled consumption and consumerism are having a negative impact on our environment. Traditionally, the frame industry has been a big contributor of plastic acetate waste. Fortunately, they are now making efforts to reduce plastic waste while also embracing recycled and biodegradable materials. There is also greater consumer awareness of sustainable products and those manufacturers who embrace sustainability will gain more market share. 

Lisa Martinsson of Glance Optics.

Lisa Martinsson, owner, Glance Optics

WWD: How have you seen eye care shift post pandemic?

Lisa Martinsson: COVID-19 actually ramped up our clients’ desire to wear fashionable eyewear, as they were primarily on Zoom meetings and couldn’t rely on their clothing for fashion or a first impression. That hasn’t changed post-pandemic, it simply educated more people on the importance of the most important accessory one will ever buy.

WWD: How about the market for blue light glasses?

L.M.: Again, as a result of the increase in Zoom meetings, our clients were much more interested in blue light-reduction lenses.

WWD: What are some eyewear trends you see in frame shapes?

L.M.: Think 1980s with a contemporary spin. Oversize but thin are making a comeback, as well as the shallower rectangle, unfortunately.

WWD: What do you think drives trends in eyewear?

L.M.: I absolutely believe that social media, at a higher level, meaning, not your Facebook friends’ opinions, but rather the high-fashion social media that gets shared among your Facebook friends leads the charge. Next in line are the icons on TV and film that we still admire, admittedly or not.

Loewe’s Paula’s ibiza glasses.


WWD: Trends you see in eyewear overall?

L.M.: As in nature, some things rarely change. Most younger adults (ages 20 to 40) want good quality and trendy, but they prefer neutral colors and metals. My older adults (50-plus) are finally comfortable in their skin and unafraid to express themselves. They are generally more confident than they’ve ever been and ready to show the world what their spirit looks like with bright colors and unique shapes. They are finally ready to stop blending in, and shine.

WWD: What brands do you think are leading in eyewear trends?

L.M.: That depends on the age group. Theo, Roger and Tarian lead my 50-and-over clients to the next level. Dita, Matsuda, Blackfin and Erker gently guide my 20- to 40-year-old clients to something new and fresh.

WWD: What brands are the most popular at your retail channels?

L.M.: The word is out about Glance Optics. Those looking for an optical experience that raises the bar are also the clients who want an exceptional quality of frame and lenses. Our most popular artists are Theo, AV, Dita, Matsuda, Blackfin, Roger and Erker’s Fine Eyewear.

WWD: What are your thoughts on sustainability in terms of frames?

L.M.: Because our clients appreciate exceptional quality, they are willing to spend more to get it. When they learn that the frame they have just fallen in love with will outlive their prescription, they feel better about the investment.