Since the early 1990s, fashion brands have been putting their names/ logos on the sides of frames, and since then “designer glasses” seem to have taken over the high street. Most opticians, whether small independent businesses or large corporate chains, stock a mind-boggling array of the same designer glasses frames. But I’m going to let you in on a secret that reveals the truth about “designer eyewear.”
The “designer glasses” customer thinks that they are buying something stylish and individual. Sadly, most designer frames have nothing to distinguish themselves from one another, using the same generic shapes and sizes to fit the same average person.
The truth is that most designer glasses brands are owned by only a couple of optical companies, the largest being Luxottica, which owns 80% of designer glasses and sunglasses, including Prada, Chanel, Tiffany, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Burberry, Oliver Peoples, Ray-Ban, Oakley to name just a few!
Luxottica almost has a monopoly on the whole industry, allowing it to control both the expensive and lower-priced designer frames. This means that not only can they control their stockists i.e. your optician, but also the price they sell their products for. Furthermore, Luxottica also own a number of large optical retail outlets around the world, including the ubiquitous Sunglass Hut, and David Clulow Opticians and John Lewis Opticians in the UK.
Seventy percent of all Luxottica’s branded glasses are manufactured in the same factory, using the same generic “one-size-fits-all” styles and colours. For Luxottica and companies like them, it’s a numbers game – they want to make and sell hundreds of thousands of their designer glasses frames. If you have a pair of designer glasses right now, the chances are that it’s from Luxottica. By their own admission, Luxottica estimates that half a billion people around the world are wearing their glasses. Half a billion! Style, elegance, design, fit, quality of materials and manufacture have been sacrificed for high volume, poor-quality, mass-produced blandness at inflated prices. And you can find them everywhere! There’s nothing unique or different about the designer eyewear brands, which makes them bland and uninspiring.
Luxottica is also an aggressive company, acquiring brands that it doesn’t own by refusing to stock them in their retail outlets. When this happened to Oakley sunglasses, the stock value of Oakley plummeted. Luxottica then swooped and bought the brand, so that now Luxottica owns and distributes Oakley sunglasses. It also applies the same approach to its stockists, either refusing to open new accounts or closing existing accounts if the optician fails to sell minimum numbers of its branded glasses each year.
The falsehood here is that Luxottica is selling the customer the illusion of choice. They are also selling the illusion of their designer glasses frames being unique, exclusive, and individual. But there’s nothing exclusive or individual when half a billion people are effectively wearing the same glasses as you!
Have you ever stopped and wondered why the designer glasses in virtually all opticians, whether small independents or large corporate chains, all look the same? Well, now you know – because they are!
If the designer brand label on the side of your designer eyewear is important to you that’s fine. We deliberately don’t work with Luxottica, and you won’t find any of their designer brands at Clarke & Roskrow Styling Opticians. We believe there is a better way, for both the long-term sustainability of our business and for our clients.
If you’re open minded and looking for something different, something unique, and something to get excited about, then you should consider finding an optician that specialises in niche eyewear, with brands that you probably won’t have heard of but will excite and inspire you and have people commenting on how terrific you look in your new glasses. And nothing makes us feel better than a nice compliment about how we look! Niche eyewear brands tend to be small, privately-owned companies, whose designers consider the style, fit, and quality of their eyewear to be the primary focus, for the benefit of the wearer.
These are the designers who are pushing the boundaries of style, materials, and novel manufacturing techniques, producing cutting-edge, high quality designer eyewear and keeping the industry moving forwards. The reason for their success is that these people design eyewear with the individual in mind. They don’t cater for the mass market, the “average person”. They cater for the person who wants something different, something truly unique, stylish, elegant, but above all something original.
They tend to be more selective about which opticians they work with, which means that they can only be found in a small number of practices, working with opticians who are “in the know” and deliberately go out of their way to source exciting and inspirational eyewear for their clients.
Their frames are also manufactured in much smaller numbers with fewer distribution channels, which means you’re unlikely to find anybody else wearing the exact same frame as you. The result is that you get a frame that is as unique, exclusive and individual as you are. A frame you’re not going to see for sale in all the other opticians or department stores. You’ll be wearing a frame that will give you a true sense of being an individual that lots of other people will desire and compliment you on! And how much better will you feel for that?!