Time flies when you’re in optical, and for many of us who have a spent a good part of our careers here, it’s been quite a ride. My career in optical was born 24 years ago. When I mention this to people, some are shocked and jokingly ask if I started working here as a teenager. I joke back and say, “Yes, I grew up here.” All jokes aside, in theory I really did “grow up” in this industry. I started first in our marketing department, learning more about our publications and products, and promoting them to our audience. I eventually moved on to focus on the editorial side of 20/20, creating content to help our readers successfully navigate their business.

During my time, I witnessed our industry evolve across a multitude of scenarios including eyewear product and style trends, frame and lens technology, retailing and dispensing, and the growth of smartphones and social media in influencing the industry. When I first started in 2000, frame styles were on the smaller and narrow side. While they incorporated a fashion element, eyewear styles were much more subdued and minimal, and making a prominent style statement wasn’t as much a priority. With time, trends shifted, and frame styles expanded in sizes, shapes and colors. Today, eyewear offers an endless array of options, and style plays a much larger role than it has before. There’s no question eyewear’s popularity has skyrocketed in the past decade or so—while first and foremost it will always be an essential medical device, the demand for its style factors has truly made it the ultimate accessory. Frame and lens technologies have also made strides throughout my time here. I remember the explosion in growth of freeform lenses; the development of color enhancing and color filtering lenses; the first sustainably manufactured frames and the impressive growth we continue to see in that category.

The retailing and dispensing scenario has also evolved in its own ways especially with online eyewear retailers grabbing a piece of the retail pie, adding its own set of competition challenges. Yet many retailers have found ways to innovate and compete by reinforcing the professional value they bring to in-person customers. And finally, perhaps the most influential factor I have seen as it relates to generational changes is when smartphones and social media took the world by storm, not only impacting the optical arena but in every aspect of our lives.

These are all significant pieces of the amazing progress and growth that our industry continues to experience. 20/20 has had the honor of covering this industry for the past 50 years, and in tribute to the past five decades, we are excited to unveil our special 50th anniversary installation at Vision Expo East this month, where you will see a life-sized timeline of 20/20’s progression over the years as well as notable industry milestones. It was impossible to include every milestone and detail, but we feel we captured the main essence of what makes our magazine AND our industry so special. Our 50th anniversary also coincides with the last Expo East being held at the Javits Center in New York City this year, so we are dedicating this March Expo issue to our beloved home city as we say a nostalgic farewell to an NYC Expo. We look forward to seeing you all and gathering one last time in our city.

Christine Yeh
Executive Editor
[email protected]