New sunglasses come in many flavors Accessories: Like varieties of ice cream, it's easy to find eyewear to suit your taste this summer. Pastels not for you? Then give your shades a metallic edge


July 09, 1998|By Valli Herman | Valli Herman,DALLAS MORNING NEWS

Sunglasses are the new watches: a fun and functional accessory to have in multiples and wear to match an outfit, the occasion or just a mood.

With pastel-tinted lenses -- the latest hot fashion -- you don't even need the sun: Jack Nicholson wore amber-tinted lenses to pick up his third Oscar. Leonardo DiCaprio has been seeing his world through rose-tinted lenses. And club kids have been wearing lenses in pale tints of red, blue, green or yellow -- nightshades for the nightclubs.

"Eyewear has taken on a completely different perception in terms of its use," says Blake Kuwahara, designer of Kata sunglasses and optical frames. "It's not a medical device, it's fashion. It's head-to-toe wardrobing."

With such a variety of companies making sunglasses, suitable shades can be found for any person or purpose. Harley-Davidson sells wraparound glasses with a chrome Harley logo. Celebrity hairstylist Frederic Fekkai's new sunglasses feature his logo prominently on the temples. Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Converse, Hush Puppies and Porsche all sell shades. So do watchmakers Fossil and Skagen and jewelers Bulgari, Cartier and Swarovski.

Suddenly, there is the real possibility of too much choice. Brush up on trends to choose wisely because, as Kuwahara says: "Eyewear is the first thing people see."

"It's just like ice cream," says Image Eyewear manager Lisa Rubey, scanning trays of plastic sunglasses in mint, peach, berry, banana and lots more "flavors."

New plastic layering or laminating techniques create frames that can look black from the front, clear from the back and rose from the side. At Image Eyewear, many customers are buying a second "fun" pair, often in vivid plastics with coordinating tinted lenses: fuchsia lenses with red plastic frames, for example, or yellow lenses in green and mint frames.

"They're great in hazy or low-light situations," says Rubey, "but most people are fooled into thinking that these are actually sunglasses." Not so: Generally, pastel tints that are light enough to reveal the eyes aren't dark enough to block bright sun.

Like hair dye, tints can be changed. "If the trend ends in six months but you love the frame, you can retint it for a pair of sunglasses," Rubey says.

When wraparound sunglasses became popular, their exaggerated shapes and radical colors seemed better suited for aliens.

Now the look, born in extreme sports, is less extreme. Frames wrap more gracefully.

But that alien look isn't going away. Ray-Ban's latest wrap, the Spinal Tap, has chrome-color frames that make them look like mad scientist goggles.

Sherry Lay, vice president of merchandising for Sunglass Hut International, says the hot looks for club kids resemble modified motorcycle goggles with an elasticized headband that offers a prime opportunity for a logo.

Metals, especially when they are mixed with plastic, have the widest range of fashion options.

The newest metal frames come in distressed finishes. "There are antique golds, henna, burnt shades," says Lay. And to go with gray clothing now in stores, there are also gunmetal, pewter and matte silver finishes.

Metal has remained a strong seller because "you can do a lot more with metal than you can with plastic in terms of design and function," says Kuwahara.

Optical-quality metal frames can be more expensive, however. At upscale optical shops, they cost from $225 to $400, while plastic fashion frames would cost from $130 to $200.

"In the past, people would choose very thin wire frames to help minimize the idea that you were wearing glasses," Kuwahara. "Now people accentuate it."

Pub Date: 7/09/98

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