Buying a pair of spectacles these days is on a par with buying a new suit. Apart from the time and expense, there are designer labels to contend with, including Calvin Klein (whose posters of Christy Turlington in sunglasses and specs are pasted on buses), Christian Dior, Armani, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Moschino, Paul Smith, Yves Saint Laurent, Yohji Yamamoto, Polo Ralph Lauren and Jean Paul Gaultier. These designers may not have designed the frames personally (indeed, they almost certainly have not), but their names have elevated specs to the realms of high fashion. And that is what the consumer wants. Specs have become yet another fashion accessory.
At the Soho branch of David Clulow, one of the most fashionable opticians in the country, customers ask for brand names rather than frame shapes. Armani is the current best seller, in particular a small, roundish frame in metal costing pounds 150. After lenses have been fitted, the total price more than doubles. Still, it's less than the price of an Armani suit, and the label is inscribed down the side for all to see.
According to Christopher Voice, area manager at David Clulow and Optika Opticians, the British are not as fashion conscious about their specs as the French, who have an average of 3.9 pairs per person: myopic Britons manage 1.5 pairs. Opticians would, of course, like to see people changing their glasses to suit different outfits and occasions.
It is not just designer names that affect sales. Celebrities can have just as much influence. That John Lennon look of round wire rims is still sought after, as are the Chris Evans heavy black plastic Anglo American Eyewear glasses (model no 173). And it seems as though most of Hollywood is wearing Calvin Klein frames, notably Steven Spielberg, Sharon Stone, Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman.
At 20/20 Optical Store on Tottenham Court Road, central London, which is more of a supermarket than an optician's, Giorgio Armani and Jarvis Cocker are the names on most punters' lips. However, the specs worn by those really in the know do not have a logo or signature. These people would be horrified at the thought of it. But they are as much a part of a club as those who wear Polo, Yohji or Armani. They wear Alain Mikli, a French designer without a range of clothes. But shhh! Don't tell anybody.
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