Founded in 1962, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) boasts a membership of more than 500 of the industry’s foremost womenswear, menswear, accessory and jewelry designers. Fast forward to 2014, when four eyewear designers from within the CFDA-Blake Kuwahara, Gai Gherardi, Selima Salaun and Christian Roth-joined forces to create a subcommittee called the Eyewear Designers of the CFDA (edCFDA). This working group aims to inspire, empower and promote the eyewear industry as a whole, according to the group’s mission statement.

Currently, the edCFDA comprises Barbara McReynolds and Gai Gherardi of l.a. Eyeworks; Shane Baum of Leisure Society; Robert Marc of Robert Marc New York; Selima Salaun of Selima Optique; Daniel Silberman and Justin Salguero of Illesteva; Garrett Leight; Larry Leight; Grant Krajecki and Natalie Levy of Grey Ant; Jeff Press of Morgenthal Frederics; Patty Perreira of Barton Perreira; Blake Kuwahara of Blake Kuwahara Eyewear; and Christian Roth of Christian Roth Eyewear. Roth currently serves as the committee’s spokesperson.

1. Leisure Society, Saville 2. CFDA designers (left to right) Christian Roth, Selima Salaun, Shane Baum, Gai Gherardi, Blake Kuwahara and Robert Marc 3. Christian Roth, RocknRoth

“In the entire landscape of fashion, eyewear is still a bit of a stepchild,” explained Kuwahara. The edCFDA aims to pool its collective resources in order to give the eyewear industry more heft and secure its equally prominent place within the fashion world. Steven Kolb, president and CEO of the CFDA, stated, “The formation of the eyewear designers of the CFDA gives credit to the important role that these designers play not only in the accessories space, but in the American fashion industry at large.”

Salaun credits the power of group networking as one of the benefits of the edCFDA, as membership comes with resources and connections within the fashion world. Addtionally, Salaun cites being “certified” by the CFDA as a major plus: “The CFDA stamp is crucial for the boutiques…to be part of it means that we are creative enough and have a successful business., Salaun Says.”

While each member of the edCFDA is a competitor of the others, many carry each other’s product in their boutiques. Additionally, they engage in special collaborations such as the Blake Kuwahara x l.a. Eyeworks line for spring/summer ’17. For a future season, Morgenthal Frederics plans to team up with Rosie Assoulin.

“Raising the visibility of eyewear as a category is a mutual benefit,” Kuwahara said. What helps one of us, helps all of us.” Similarly, Baum likens the collaborations to musical artists: when one artist appears on another’s album, the fan bases for each are exposed to the material.

The edCFDA offers the opportunity for designers to share information and insights with one another, according to Marc and Press, sparking greater creativity. “All members have their own identity, history and design philosophy-we complement each other and have a great respect for each other. Yes, we are competitors, but we are also a family.”

The edCFDA spearheads many eyewear events, including panel discussions at Vision Expo and through The Vision Council, that take place throughout the year. In November, the committee finished its second Accessories Showcase in conjunction with the 82 jewelry designers of the CFDA.

As the edCFDA continues to grow, so do its goals. One of the educational objectives for the committee is to establish programs for aspiring designers since there are not currently any schools dedicated to the craft.

As far as the industry as a whole, the edCFDA members hope that eyewear will continue to grow into a category all its own. “For too long, [eyewear]was not recognized in the fashion world when shoe, bag and jewelry designers have always been part of it,” Salaun expressed. “In eyewear, the emphasis was on function and not on creativity; the goal is to change that.” Baum agreed with this sentiment: “We are making the world more aware of their contribution to this oft-overlooked faction of fashion.”

Kaitlyn Robertson has been writing for more than a decade with eight years spent covering the optical industry.

4. Christian Roth, Jackie 5. Selima Optique X Dusan, Hilde 6. Blake Kuwahara and l.a. eyeworks, Two-Noons and Two-Rays 7. Leisure Society, Akoya 8. Blake Kuwahara and l.a. eyeworks, Two-Noons and Two-Rays 9. Robert Marc, RM 865 10. Selima Optique, David 11. Christian Roth, Ellsworth 12. Robert Marc, sunwear in Broadway Red, Empire Blue and Lexington Green


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