08/22/2012 06:00 EDT | Updated 10/22/2012 05:12 EDT

The eyes have it: Chunkier frames, bright hues, retro styles in specs for fall

TORONTO - From ray-shielding shades to prescription pairs, the eyes truly have it when it comes to framing faces in stylish specs.

Sherry Pounds, vice-president of product for LensCrafters, said this fall will mark a throwback to classic styles of the '20s, '50s and '80s.

"What is old is new again," she said from Mason, Ohio. "You can think like flapper, Great Gatsby, Marilyn Monroe, kind of MTV and personal computers. And really, what is happening is with the popularity of television shows and movies that are being created in past decades, retro styles are making a comeback this season."

Pounds said eyewear collections are showing a trend in round glasses. But she also noted the sleek cat eye — sported by screen and style icons like Brigitte Bardot and the late Audrey Hepburn — has also made a major resurgence and quickly become a classic style for optical wearers.

Amin Mamdani, vice-president of operations and buyer for Josephson Opticians in Toronto, said retro styles are among those translating from adult eyewear to "Mini-Me" frames for the younger crowd — albeit with a fresh twist.

"You are seeing a lot of the wayfarer kind of look which is the chunkier plastics, but with colour," he said. "So there's a lot of tone-on-tone, there's a lot of two-tone; so you've got a complimentary colour and you've got something that's a contrast colour.

"With kids, you can actually have lime-green, blues, reds, and let them have fun, because (those are) the colours they wear a lot of, rather than just being solids and being safe."

Mamdani said styles for kids' eyewear tend to veer more towards chunky rather than fine frames in a downsized version of adult looks that are better suited to smaller-sized faces.

"A lot of colours, a lot of textures, more plastic than we've ever seen before in the past; so a lot of the chunkier looks with colour rather than just being black or tortoise which we see a lot in adult frames."

The proliferation of bright colours has been a signature story in fashion and home decor this year, and the infusion of hues is leaving a bold mark on frames.

Mamdani said many of the sunglasses available today are acetate or plastic frames, with kids' varieties in orange, red, blue, green and white for the season.

Pounds said patterns are becoming more prevalent with a nod toward animal print. Splashes of colour are also adorning the inside of glasses as well as the front and temple areas, she noted.

While there are subtle details such as keyhole bridges and slimmer, more refined temples defining some frames, others have seen another trickle-down from the fashion runways with the featuring of over-the-top embellishments.

Pounds said this has translated to eyewear with precious metal detailing and other touches demarcating several styles.

"Whether it's logo detail, knots, bows or jewels, these eye-catching embellishments and ornamentation on both optical and sunglass frames are really calling for more attention this season."

Also echoing another ripped-from-the-runway trend featured in apparel and accessories is the mixing of materials.

"For instance, leather, whip-stitching detail, metal, acetate, wood-like and fabric combinations are being used," said Pounds. "And really, the trend brings an extra bit of luxury by adding style and texture with the use of these unexpected materials."

With Justin Reuben's older brother already sporting specs, his mother, Lesley, said there was little nudging required to get her six-year-old to embrace wearing his glasses.

The duo stopped by Josephson Opticians to pick up yet another new pair — the fourth since Justin started wearing glasses about two years ago.

"I find now that kids' glasses look like adult glasses. They're funkier. I definitely see a change in the styles," she said.

Despite a high prescription and thick lenses, Reuben said the latest incarnations of frames allows Justin to sport a small pair that are lightweight and easy to manage. While he has started to outgrow a pre-existing pair of circular, black frames, she said he still has others to choose from to help sharpen his vision — and even make a bespectacled style statement.

"Sometimes he'll say, `No, Mummy, I want to wear my other ones, and I don't ask why, I don't ask questions."

With the attention to and inclusion of chic sartorial touches in today's contemporary styles, many non-prescription wearers are flocking to frames in the name of fashion.

Pounds points to a Wall Street Journal feature published last year about a fad among many in Hong Kong sporting lensless glasses.

The paper has also posted an online photo gallery dubbed "NBA Goes Geek Chic," showcasing stills of a bevy of basketball stars like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade pairing heavy-rimmed frames with their off-court attire. Even homegrown stars like Justin Bieber have incorporated faux frames as part of their ensembles.

"It gives them a different look, it adds a little bit of style; and because it's no longer odd to see a pair of glasses on a face, it's more of a `geek chic' look that's going on," said Mamdani. "We're seeing a lot of celebrities putting on eyewear and just having fun with it."

Pounds said LensCrafters has also noticed a trend towards younger, more fashion-savvy consumers purchasing optical frames without prescriptions with the option available to wear them with demo lenses — or none at all.

"With the designer and luxury frames becoming so diverse from colour to shape, consumers really see this as a key accessory like shoes and handbags."