I’m sure you’ve noticed some hefty changes in the land of luxury retailing these last few years. It hasn’t specifically been a downward (or upward) sku-ering of price, purse-say, although lower cost goods have certainly slipped in as readily as absurdly expensive thing-a-ma-bobs some folks just can’t live without.

It’s more a factor of the consumer market being targeted. The super-rich have always loved their Bentleys and Birkin bags. They will continue to do so. But, increasingly, current marketing and advertising has taken tack on a new breed of consumers looking to live better and aiming to please that quest with a growing host of brands promising top-notch quality, star-quality status and impeccable style. And the buzz-word for that hive, certainly incorporating eyewear

as part of its product mix, has been goodies described as “affordable luxury.”

So now that you’ve heard that phrase attached to everything from garden tools to coffee makers… forget it. Luxury is not affordable. Quality costs more and, even more important to this category, exclusivity costs more. Dipping down toward the higher end of high-end goods does not reduce the cost factor significantly. You get what you pay for. THAT has never changed. So in a very real sense retailers and consumers need to exhibit caution when navigating the new labels attached to luxury living.

The rewards for this can be richly rewarding for both

but don’t be fooled by manufacturers skilled in the art of manipulating the complex branding scenario as they blur the lines between quality and high quality.

That said, this month’s featured eyewear has been critically scrutinized by 20/20 as luxury (and high-high end) as it now evolves from what was once a niche into a mother load of potential for any optical retailers willing to literally put their eyewear and their reputations on the line… the TOP line.

And speaking of “TOP line”: As you see from our cover, this issue features a most exclusive interview with Ralph Lauren. A recent issue of Vanity Fair tried but failed to get his verbal attention. Ditto, a story in the Style magazine of The New York Times was peppered with just two quotes. He was exceedingly gracious sharing his time and thoughts with 20/20 and, therefore, you the optical professional. It was a luxurious privilege.