Your options for adding artistically designed, artisanally crafted, trendsetting fashion-forward frames expand exponentially when you stock your boards with eyewear from Europe.

I spent 20 days traveling through seven countries and nine cities of Europe a couple months ago, but you don’t have to go there to explore the cultural significance it can have in your life, especially your optical life.

Compare Europe’s influence on the current coffee scene to that of eyewear. Micro-roasters are thriving, and the exceptionally tasty coffee results from fancy pour-overs, French presses and matcha lattes. Micro-roasters are not selling coffee anymore, they are selling space and branding. They are adopting the philosophy that a connection to a brand and creating a space for you to linger are more important than the product itself. It’s a new type of collateral—brand-experience collateral.

European eyewear lends itself well to developing your brand-experience collateral. It’s one of the main pillars you can build upon to prompt loyalty, trendiness, curiosity, and lingering in your brick-and-mortar retail presence.

With so many flavors, of coffee as well as European eyewear, you might have some difficulty predicting what’s trendy in your area. You might be surprised when modestly dressed people will frequently be open to wearing a work of art on their face, eyewear art that comes in so many forms from the clean lines of simple titanium to candy-looking acetate.

Begin by attending a major optical show such as Vision Expo or Silmo, where you are likely to gain a sense of awareness that the movement toward independent European eyewear brands is growing exponentially.

The best part about working with European eyewear vendors is the collaborative effort. When small retail and wholesale business goals are aligned, the result is a powerhouse think tank that can predict what consumers want and how to deliver it, differentiating your optical at the same time.

When you sell a frame, you are selling plastic or metal. When you sell art, you sell an approach, process, human connection and yourself. People buy from people who evoke emotion in them. Those little expensive pieces of art sitting on your shelves present the easiest way for your optical to thrive in a competitive climate.

Staging this one part of your optical pillar system starts by purchasing one European frame collection and consistently adding to your assortment. Before you know it, your brand-experience collateral will be unique and you will have raving fans wearing raving eyewear.

This handmade men’s luxury eyewear launched this year with 18 ophthalmic and 15 sunglass models, 19 acetate and 14 metal. All sunglass lenses are Zeiss, and each sunglass style offers one in polarized. Dual-hinged, non-rocking Viscottica/OBE hinges are used, and the Canali logo script C plaque signature is inset on every temple tip.
L’Amy America     800.243.6350     LAmyAmerica.com     Support@LAmyAmerica.com

The new Salvatore Ferragamo Men’s Capsule collection combines modern design and elegance in a range of sunglasses and optical styles that reinterpret vintage-inspired shapes and classical frames in smooth acetate and shiny metal. Each model is enhanced with exclusive contrasts and refined accents ranging from striped motifs and transparent effects to the iconic Double Gancini detail.
Marchon Eyewear     800.645.1300     Marchon.com     CS@Marchon.com

From Italian eyewear company Safilo Group, the FENDI Fall/Winter 2018-19 Women’s Eyewear Collection features both optical frames and sunglasses. The EYELINE optical frame’s pure geometries and maximum lightness are enhanced by the slim frame lines in flat shiny metal. The new F IS FENDI sunglasses add a contemporary twist to the classic shape, paired with the signature logo.
Safilo USA     800.631.1188     Safilo.com     Info@Safilo.com

Inspired by Barcelona, Etnia Barcelona was founded 16 years ago by David Pellicer, grandson of Fulgencio Ramo, who worked in an eyewear factory until he opened his own in the city’s Poble Sec neighborhood in the 1950s. Lenses are pure mineral scratch-proof material, and frames are made of natural acetate in colors and designs created by Mazzucchelli.
Etnia Barcelona     800.553.8642     EtniaBarcelona.com

Worn by actor Dev Patel, these acetate frames are embellished with metal rivets featuring the chevron motif, while the temple tips are adorned with vicuña-colored inserts. The sporty mask-style sunglasses in nylon feature a metal double bridge and leather edging on the lenses. Similarly, two rivets on the front feature the iconic chevron motif, while the temple tips are enhanced by camel-colored inserts.
Marcolin     800.345.8482     Marcolin.com     InfoUSA@Marcolin.com

Ørgreen Optics has combined refined Nordic design sensibility with technical innovation since 1997, and this year the company introduces Minimal Vintage, its first collection in acetate, featuring five men’s, six women’s and two unisex styles. Extending Ørgreen’s modern minimalist visual ethos, Minimal Vintage builds a bridge between past nostalgia and innovation in contemporary eyewear design.
Ørgreen     816.220.7533     Orgreen.dk

Started in 1978 in Campolongo di Cadore, Italy, as a little workshop to manufacture acetate frames, Look Optics became Look Occhiali in 1986 and added a new production facility, Metal Look, in 1992 in Auronzo di Cadore, Italy. According to the company, “Look keeps its production in ltaly to guarantee to its customers the uniqueness of the product and to expand its trade presence in countries throughout the world.”
Look Occhialli     855.302.1792     509.251.5192     LookOcchiali.it

Two new entries from neubau eyewear, Adam & Eva make their debut in the high-end segment and mark the first time the brand’s Rx styles have a new hinge style that subtly integrates the neubau logo. There’s an element of surprise about Adam’s “Squanto” shape, a darkly toned frame with a fairly angular outline in a 1920s Panto style. Eva features a subtly arched cat-eye shape.
neubau eyewear     800.223.0180     neubau-eyewear.com     contactus@neubau-eyewear.com

Thema Optical was born in 1971 by engineer Giorgio Valmassoi and continues today with son Roberto and daughter Giulia. The family company has also expanded into the U.S. with facilities in Florida. Above, the model wears O-Six Spatialism, created by subtracting from acetate, starting with a solid piece and little by little revealing the shape of the frame.
Thema Optical     786.803.8881     ThemaOptical.com     CService@Thema-Optical.com

Kirk & Kirk’s Kaleidoscope Collection has introduced new additions that will be showcased at Silmo and that will feature the cat eye Hana, shown above. Chloe Jasmine is wearing Lez in earth. The brand new handmade 10mm acrylic Centena collection will be launched with ten shapes and ten colors at Silmo.
Kirk & Kirk     267.773.6670     KirkAndKirk.com     USA@KirkAndKirk.com

Eyewear from this renowned Swiss luxury accessories brand is handcrafted at
De Rigo’s factory in Longarone, Italy. Introducing new styles for fall, the latest collection of sun and optical captures the luxurious features, skilled craftsmanship and originality of Chopard’s iconic jewelry and watch lines and reinterprets them into every detail of the frame, recalling the painstaking traditional workmanship of Swiss goldsmiths.
De Rigo REM     800.423.3023     DeRigo.US     CustomerService@DeRigo.US

Among Italy’s iconic brands and founded more than 100 years ago in 1917, Persol breaks ground with its new collection, three-lens glasses design from the archives. Also making its debut, the flex hinge on metal temples is the result of two years of research. The color theme combines light pastel lenses, from the archives but reinvented with new treatments, and acetates that include original two-tone and streaked havana shades.
Luxottica     800.422.2020     Luxottica.com     CustomerService@US.Luxottica.com

Craftsmanship, experimental spirit and expertise in leather are the three pillars of LOEWE that also define this first eyewear collection made in collaboration with Thélios. The straight and rectangular shape of style LW40006 with a stitched leather front makes for a strong and unisex look, while style LW40012 combines acetate and metal in a futuristic mask shape.
Thélios     LOEWE.com

Founded in 1880, the family business is now run by the fourth generation. Thin and light are among the features of the Lightec collection’s minimalist and streamlined frames. Women’s frames combine metal and acetate, while men’s feature a stainless steel arch embedded in a thin aluminum frame. They possess a chic and stylish lightweight and sophisticated feel.
Morel     800.526.8838     Morel-France.com     Sales@Morel-EyewearUSA.com

“With European styles we’ve looked for something nobody else in town is stocking to make people feel like they’re wearing something unique and boutique. Europe’s influence on fashion in the U.S. is to go one step further with colors that are a little bolder and designs that are a little edgier. Every frame has a face; no matter how far out there you think it is, it’s going to be a fit for somebody.”
— Brett Hagen, OD
Garland Vision Source, Spokane, WA

“There is a sort of romance that comes from the few true Italian and French factories left that feels like something coming from a factory cranking out eyewear for five decades. That holds true for Germany as well. The characteristics are tricky because there is no quantitative value, but once you’ve been around it for awhile you know the feeling. There’s something about multigenerational facilities that leads to that romantic feel. You can feel it in the details. There’s a certain suppleness.”
­— Nate Ogura, Owner
Eyes on Fremont, Seattle

“European style is a trendsetting marker in the eyewear industry with experimental designs, provocative color variations, and advanced innovation. These artistic creations have allowed clients to wear a piece of art everyday and transform not only their overall look but overall attitude. Opticians welcome carrying these pieces in their curated assortments because it offers them an opportunity to style their clients with the best quality products out there”
— Harvey Ross, President/CEO
OPTYX, New York

“European eyewear bends toward the fashionable side with high quality and a larger percentage being handmade. Italians specifically are very creative, fashion-forward manufacturers. To determine what to carry, you have to do research on your clientele. I happen to be in downtown San Diego, where they are looking for a certain type of eyewear. They gravitate toward higher end, more luxury, more Italian.”
— ­­­Jason Tu, OD
Downtown Optometry, San Diego

“European eyewear is a leader of style not a follower of a trend. Someone who comes to our practice knows they will have something on the cutting edge. We might have had little round circle frames for three years, and now they are selling. European product will be mainstream product in the U.S. in a couple of years. European product lasts long. The quality is so great, sometimes to our demise because clients reuse the frames, and we only see a turnover of lenses. This gives you the opportunity to teach the client about wardrobing. I wish I had a little book to tell everyone the criteria, but you need to pick out product yourself. You need to try it on and physically feel the tangible quality, how smooth it is, the hinge, the balance, the scaling.”
— Laura Wesolowski, ABOC
Wichryk Eye Associates, Macungie, PA

“The bigger brands’ eyewear is coming out at the same time as their clothing and bags and accessories, and you’ll find the same details in their eyewear. Milan is still the center of fashion. Second to that will come France, but we’re in a changing world, and their creative direction is becoming younger. They’re talking streetwear, which will have an impact on how eyewear is being worn and perceived. Then we have niche products out of Denmark and Germany and Spain, and also of course Italy and France, which requires you getting on a plane and going to the small factories or visiting the shows. You’re not going to find them sitting in your office or even on the internet. You need to go there if you want some exclusivity. You take a risk, put it in your store, try it out and have fun with the customer. Sometimes it works . . . and sometimes it doesn’t.”
— Ed Beiner, Chief Visionary Officer
Edward Beiner Group, Miami

“European eyewear stands apart. I personally opened up this unique optical in small town USA, getting in unique eyewear from all over the world. People in this area don’t usually see this type of eyewear. People started coming from all over, and we exploded in growth. Europeans do a good job of understanding color. They have a fashion balance, using the proper amount of crystals and colors. Europe sets the trend. Whether cat eye or round, you will see it first in European eyewear. You need to set yourself apart. Some people pick visual therapy or dry eye. My niche is unique eyewear. You have to make a commitment and make 30% or 50% independent companies out of Europe.”
— Scott Keating, OD
Vision Trends by Dr. Scott Keating, Dover, OH

“Being close to the Seattle area, near Olympia, brings in people from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds with different tastes who are looking for something with a different flair on a regular basis. We need the style to reflect their personality, but we also need quality. People love the quality of European frames and want them to complement their personality, lifestyle and wardrobe. A lot of what’s happening in Europe is larger sized. Rounds are still in. There is a lot of metal happening. Patients like to have some variety and individuality, and we like to have a few pieces that are unexpected. Watch the turns and treat it like a business.”
— Kimberly Manthe, ABO
Clarus Eye Centre, Lacey, WA

“European eyewear is certainly passionate and unique with a real thought process behind it. That’s where the majority of artistic eyewear has been produced. In most cases in Europe they are second or third generation operations, literally artists who value their trade and run small family factories, as well as large ones. Europeans pay attention to architecture in general, not just in the sense of buildings but in their attention to detail. I wouldn’t just say that their eyewear is colorful, but there’s a reason for it, a thought process behind it in which individual colors represent certain feelings, certain emotions. The color, quality, attention to detail and bolder lines create in-your-face, kick-down-the-door kind of looks.”
— Frank DePaolo, ABOC, Optician/Owner
Successful Vision Corp., New York

Perry Brill, Optician, Brill Eye Center, Mission, KS


How do I find reputable European eyewear brands?
• Check out their internet presence, meet at trade shows and monitor trade publications. Be an early adopter.

But no one knows these brands?
• Curiosity is a human instinct. We want to be different and have people ask: Where did you get those?

I don’t get a buying group discount. I don’t think my optical or patients can afford these.
• Expect transparency in European purchases. Everyone is getting the same deal, which flattens the negotiating landscape.
• You can’t afford not to sell these. A few sales of funky eyewear and a few referrals, and you have recouped your investment.

You want exclusivity on products and so do customers.
• The dealer locator may soon become your best friend. A warm optical lead generally leads to an easy sale. If a European brand has limited accounts in your area, it’s a good chance that a customer searching online for frames will end up in your gallery with a quick map search for closest retailers.
• People want things other people can’t get. We seek the unattainable.

Longevity of eyewear leads to a wardrobe mentality.
• European eyewear is made with premium parts and quality craftsmanship. Two years after a purchase, the product is generally in like-new condition and ready for a new set of lenses. You want sales, but service and longevity are remembered.

They are in France and I’m in the U.S. How will I get service?
• Onboard and employee education easily through a video conference.
• Call the U.S. office (if available) or chat through email or using a popular mobile application such as WhatsApp. Your customers will understand answers may not be available on the same day. Many companies are adopting online.

Know the value.
• Don’t comply with conventional markups. It’s acceptable to start with a 5x markup and see how the consumer responds. You may be surprised what the market will bear. You can always go lower. Buy your product right, and sell on value, not price. When you put an acetate frame on that is silky smooth, the hinges close with a buttery softness and the bridge rests gently on your nose, you’ve encountered a quality frame. Know your frame features and price accordingly.
• There is buying, and there is buying right. There is pricing, and there is pricing right. European eyewear has so much value because you are simply paying for the product closer to the source.

What about warranties?
• If you are worried about warranties, you are in the wrong business and mindset. Worry about curating a selection of eyewear that will refer people in from countless word-of-mouth comments.
• Quality eyewear holds up well. In the event you do need a warranty, the process is no different than with other companies. Just be patient to wait for shipment from overseas.

Will a rep visit my optical quarterly to get us up to speed?
• Depending on the company, a representative will be readily available for consistent visits. If not, don’t panic. Learn how to manage your own inventory and purchasing patterns. Sometimes it’s nice to not have someone breathing down your neck.

Expand your bench skillset.
• European eyewear frequently exhibits unique hinges, mounting procedures, adjusting instructions or assembly methods. Your hand skills will be fine-tuned in a way you never imagined. As always, when you think you know it all…there’s more to learn.


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