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Far Sighted(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 07,2007)

Milan Vision

New materials and styles from Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland recently caught the eye at Europe's leading optical show

Zenobia Chan knows how important it is to be present at Mido, the international optics, optometry and ophthalmology exhibition held in early May in Milan.

The engineering manager for Hong Kong's Okia Optical Co attended Mido 2007 from May 4-7 at the Fiero Milano to show her company's innovations in high-definition (HD) acetate.

"HD acetate allows producers to come up with multicoloured models with extremely sharp and complex drawings and decorations that are impossible to obtain using traditional methods," she explained.

Fellow Hong Kong exhibitor Alison Cheng of Wah Ming Optical Mfy Ltd highlighted the importance of an exhibition such as Mido as a means to contact European customers.

"We produce sunglasses and frames and have participated at the show for more than 20 years," she revealed.

Wah Ming Optical designs and produces exclusive collections under OEM and ODM terms. "New trends include very large sunglasses and frames in combinations of materials, including acetate and metal," Cheng added. "Black and natural colours prevail."

Mido also proved "positive" for Outlook Optical Mfy Co, whose main export markets are Europe and the US, followed by Asia.

"We specialise in manufacturing sunglasses," sales manager Stella Han explained, adding that Outlook Optical exhibited large-sized models. "They use acetate, plastic and metal with a mix of materials."

First-time attendee ECO Co of the Chinese mainland displayed large round, oval and rectangular sunglasses in a variety of materials, including plastic, acetate and metal, with many featuring arms in cut-work metal.

ECO's prescription glasses were more square and smaller-sized and wholesale unit prices ranged from US$0.80-1.50. "We made interesting contacts," claimed sales manager Zhang Ming Zhu. "Buyers came from Europe, North and South America."

Chinese mainland and Hong Kong manufacturers have been increasing their presence at Mido annually, and this year their products stood out for the sheer variety and fantasy in shapes and materials.

There were often embellishments that added an exotic twist to standard designs, while prescription line forms were mostly feminine or refined, invariably featuring oval or square shapes.

Hong Kong products shone thanks to their use of acetate, painted metals and both strong and delicate pastels, many in this year's most stylish silhouettes.

Dark shading in big shapes, rather than mask designs, is likely to be the main trend in sunglasses in the coming year, according to exhibitors at the show.

New sunglass trends accentuate black frames, are designed large on the face, feature shaped arms and are embellished with crystals, inlays, or laser incisions (mostly logos).

White looks certain to be another "cult" colour, shaped as large, round, oval or rectangular with bevelled edges contrasting with dark lenses - although cold and warm earth-nuanced options are also to set upcoming trends.

Other significant trends saw tortoiseshell frames make a comeback, and delicate cut-work drawings on metal arms create a "lace" effect. Logos were also trendy in large sizes, while acetates, other metals and titanium were often combined with plastic.

In general, frames for prescription eyewear will feature smaller dimensions and are expected to be rather square, but diverse interpretations included shapes that tended to oval or even round.

Very light cut-work steel, either blued or natural, set the trend for men's and unisex lines in a seemingly endless variety of metals and acetates.

Metallised "mask" designs, featuring aerodynamic and close-fitting lines, were clearly preferred for sports, while the aviator-style teardrop-shape made a re-appearance among even the most elegant models, often in warm, gold nuances.

None other than Giorgio Armani introduced the aviator-style look Safilo Group this year, realised in metal but providing contrast with Swarovski diamante sprinklings on the double bridge.

The glasses are only available in two elegant versions: rhodium with smoky-grey lenses and shell-grey frame work, or rose gold with smoky-brown lenses and frame work in shell-brown.

Other top names to attend Mido included premium sector leader Luxottica Group, which announced a turnover of US$2.3bn for 2006 - up 30.9% from 2005.

Luxottica offered Prada's newest lines, one featuring rectangular shapes emphasized by signature milling in restrained colours that included black carbon, tortoiseshell, dark brown and ebony.

Square models for women with the Prada logo and Savoy coat of arms and knots were also available in black and tortoiseshell and should prove popular with fashionistas worldwide this year.

Elsewhere, Carl Zeiss Vision Sunlenses presented new metallic blue, silver and bronze HiPro lenses, which feature optimum visual sharpness, superior adhesive strength and abrasion resistance and also boast water-repellent surfaces.

Prescription lens producer the Rodenstock Group surpassed itself with a selection of high-performance progressive lenses in the "corrective" segment.

One of the outstanding novelties was the first progressive lens tailored to individual requirements, which fits any frame and prevents lateral image distortion when the wearer's eyes are turned suddenly.

Intercast launched its Nxt® Varia® New Generation monochromatic lenses that are specifically designed to provide the greatest resistance to impact, while offering a higher visual sharpness than polycarbonate versions.

Ideal for sporting activities, they come in a large palette of colours as well as a Polar Varia® version featuring shaded and mirrored lenses that look as good as they perform.

Architectures of Paris' "Face à Face" sunglasses and prescription glass collections featured a range of consumer prices from US$378-567 for titanium frames.

The new sunglasses collection included 1960s and 1970s styles made of acetate and featuring round or rectangular lenses and a curved mask design, with an acetate model entitled Eden that included a metal insert already a best seller.

Nicodesign of Italy presented its new Vanni "Decó" range with metal and acetate frames, implemented according to an exclusive inlay technique on multilayer sheets.

Inspired by the work of architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, one of the founders of the Art Deco movement, this collection will cost consumers anywhere from US$202-297 a pair.

Meanwhile, the Tornado line that included frames produced by three chemically-etched, natural or blued steel sheets cost US$229-435 a pair.

Polaroid Eyewear presented the first, exclusive sunglass collection in a limited edition: its Vintage Aviator Limited Edition follows the old-fashioned style of American aviators.

The sunglasses feature teardrop-shaped lenses with frames in antique gold and gun barrel tones, while some models boasted arms coated in black or brown leather contrasted with light grey or brown polarizing lenses.

Prescription glass model Pu 15200 Speed I presented by Puma Eyewear comes in titanium and is available in a variety of colours: silver, black, blue, olive-green and red.

One of the De Rigo Group's most successful brands, Police, presented a collection of glasses featuring aggressive, captivating, full-colour lines inspired by the 1980s with very accurate details and mirrored sun lenses.

The immense variety of styles and collections illustrated the attraction of Mido 2007, which increased exhibition space 15% to 53,000 square metres to accommodate 1,220 exhibitors and 2,000 brands from 125 countries and ultimately attracted a total 45,500 visitors, 8.8% higher than last year's event.

This year's show headlined an extremely successful fashion show organised in collaboration with fashion magazine Vogue Italia, while the Mido Design Lab also drew many visitors thanks to the technical and innovative qualities of the products on display.

Mido also confirmed that the eyewear sector in general is growing, with the Italian eyewear industry achieving record production valued at US$3.3bn in 2006 - a healthy 17.4% increase over the previous year.

The Italian eyewear export boom was led by shipments to Hong Kong, partly re-exports to the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, which recorded a 40.3% uptick - specifically 37.8% for frames and 43% for sunglasses.

TEXT BY CRISTINA BELLAVISTA AND CLARA DODINO

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