In my years as a sort of “materials” witness to retailing products at 20/20 (and Women’s Wear Daily and W as well) I’ve always noted a valid union of the state of the economy and trade, and the aura of aggressive style trending. If the economy is in a slump, or if there are dark clouds on the horizon relating to trade importing and exporting, the climate of the products in cutting-edge looks and styles calms down considerably.

This held true in the early ’70s when I first secured a gig as Art Director at WWD, and it played out equally strong in the troubled times of 2008 through to 2010 here at 20/20 when retail purchases were definitely pressured via a struggling economy.

Taking into consideration that there are numerous new factors at play today (the climate of online retailing, the health care scenario, consumers and their evolving relationship with branding, etc.) it would figure that the designs and depth of energetic style would be in a much calmer state of aggressiveness at this very moment, but judging by the eyewear and sunwear just reviewed for this very issue of women’s eyewear, it would seem frame vendors are deep in a wave of daring and LET’S-DO-IT on the fashion(able) front. And I’m not just talking about the high end, fashion branding, lifestyle branding or that noted ramp-up of innovation and design with independent eyewear players. Across the board the eyewear on board that we the editors of 20/20 perused for this issue was FANtastic.

Maybe it is precisely because of the upcoming challenges in trade and the economy. But caution and a lack of faith in the style instincts of the consumer is nowhere in evidence based on the eyewear I looked at in picking frames for this issue’s main features.

Could there be some sort of unspoken tactic at play unique to the optical arena? Are specs the new salvation for keeping style and innovation alive in tough times? Here’s the deal: I’ll talk to the vendors I come in contact with each day here at 20/20. You hash it out with their frame reps. Let’s get THEIR stories, compare notes and until then… feast on the great eyewear here on feature display in this November issue. And hopefully by 2020 IN 20/20, we’ll all figure it out.

James J. Spina
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