Life through a lens

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Indy Lifestyle Online
When the mini-heatwave hit in early May, London's fashionable types were caught between having to wear last year's summer clothes or rushing out to shop for new stuff in time to catch the rays before they disappeared back behind the clouds. Most of us shopped, which was easy enough - the glossy magazines dictated the summer looks for clothes back in March, but sunglasses were a different matter.

What's in? What's out? What's new? And what's the must-have? This hasn't been fully addressed yet by fashion editors, and because there are no waiting-lists for sunglasses (yet) there are no must-haves - a surefire way to discover the must-have, by the way, is to find out what you can't- get - so we thought we'd take to the streets to ask the trendiest purveyors of sunglasses (and a loudmouth who saw the camera) their nominations for the sunglasses of Summer 1998.

The biggest trend seems to be a move away from garish over-branding to an altogether more understated look. Out go obvious trademarks that instantly identify a pair of shades, such as the interlocking Gs on Gucci sunglasses, and in comes a barely discernible "Gucci" stamped on the side arm. Yellow lenses are also out in favour of brown tints. At the end of our day of research one brand came out tops, Dolce & Gabbana, who seem to have hit the nail of Summer 1998 right on the head with their understated metal frames. My favourites, however, are the Jil Sander visors.

NB. The best thing about all this too-cool-for-branding malarky has got to be the element of cheats chic. Boots own range does some rather fabulous metal sunglasses that don't scream "Boots", or anything else for that matter. Now they might make a fab pair of "Dolces" at a third of the price!

Susan Tang from Whistles wears chunky black 1950s look shades (01) pounds 59, by Simon Carter, exclusively for Whistles, enquiries (0171-487 4484)

"These look good on most faces. They are glamorous, mysterious and they go with our clothes. We also do a chunky round version of these in a silvery colour, and in tortoise-shell, but they are a little big for the average face. You need confidence to wear them. I like these because they don't shout, there's no big branding, and you can hide behind them."

Claire Mercier from Kirk Originals wears navy "Erica", pounds 150, by Kirk Originals, enquiries (0171-240 5055)

"We're selling lots of big, chunky and colourful frames at the moment," says Jason Kirk, the designer and owner of Kirk Originals, "and many women seem to go for these, even though they are quite extreme. I have also noticed that all of our clients seem to be more interested in the look and level of protection the sunglasses offer than they are in branding. All of our branding is very discreet, and always has been."

Sheragime Keshauarziau from Jigsaw for Men wears extreme rectangular tortoiseshell sunglasses (W2585) by Ray-Ban, enquiries (0171-240 5651)

"We almost sold out of sunglasses when it was sunny," said spokesman Robert O'Connell. "When the weather changed there were lots of panic buys, we just couldn't keep up. In the main we sold vintage style Ray-Bans. Lots of people asked if we had some without logos, even though they were already quite discreetly placed. Accessories will be really important this summer."

Sharon Brown from David Clulow wears Jil Sander Eyes' tortoise- shell visors, (411 052) pounds 139, enquiries (0171-240 8284)

"These have just come out, and we've sold quite a few pairs considering they are for a very selective customer. When people see them they just grab them. We are also selling loads of Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci frames, which are very pared down compared to last year. Brown tinted lenses are also popular, they seem to be taking over from last year's big trend for yellow lenses."

Craig Scott from Boxfresh wears yellow tinted glasses, pounds 10, from the street market in Covent Garden.

"I know everyone wore these last year and I don't care. I'm wearing them now because they make everything look better and brighter, especially on a cloudy day. I also think they make me look intelligent. I think everyone should wear them, regardless of fashion. It's about attitude and Hip-Hop."

Martin Hill from Sunglasses Hut wears rectangular chrome frames with amber lens, (302S), pounds 150, by Dolce & Gabbana, enquires (0171-379 4719)

"When the sun came out, we were packed. It's amazing what people will spend on a pair of sunglasses. These ones, from Dolce & Gabbana, are our bestsellers so far, closely followed by a rectangular pair by Calvin Klein. Our customers don't seem to want as much Ray-Ban as they used to, they are just after designer brands, and a good level of protection. They always ask about the UVA and UVB levels when they try on shades."

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