Eye Frame Manufacturers' Pitch: More Is Fashionable

Eye frame manufacturers are teaming up with celebrities and designers to sell consumers on a new notion: It's un fashionable to own only one pair of eyeglasses.

Now, clothes designer Giorgio Armani is plunging into a field already crowded with celebrity name tags to sell more eyeglasses for an Italian frame maker.

"They're looking for strategies to get consumers to buy more than one pair," said Marc Ferrara, editor of Optical Index, a trade publication. "Some in the industry are saying, 'You should have six pair of glasses to go with your wardrobe or life style.' Some are after the multiple-pair purchase--one for work and one for the evening; one for sports and one for the red outfit. This is a major shift."

Armani, who made his mark as a clothing designer, recently formed a partnership with The Luxottica Group. The designer has developed a line of eye wear for his Armani boutiques and about 2,500 other locations worldwide, according to Henry Sand, director of special projects at Luxottica. Armani joins Halston, Givenchy, Ralph Lauren, Cartier and celebrities like Sophia Loren, Joan Collins and Cheryl Tiegs in the fashionable frame business. Armani's frames, which will retail for $140 to $400, will be available next month.

"Glasses are functional, but everything you wear has a function," said Sand, explaining why he thinks consumers should buy more than one pair. "You don't restrict yourself to one shirt just because it's functional . . . . Until the mid-1960s, fashion in this business was not important." When the post-war baby boomer generation went to high school and college, that's when granny glasses and metal frames came in--and that's when fashion began. Now the baby-boomers are moving into their 40s, and that's what's fueling fashion."

While eyeglasses are a vision aid for most, some are trying to evoke authority or thoughtfulness by wearing glasses that they don't need. The non-prescription eyeglasses--known as planos--can be found in more and more corporate and legal offices.

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