Shades of subtlety

The world of luxury is divided into those who like a logo and those who don’t. For every woman who covets the distinctive double C of a Chanel handbag there’s another who wants a less showy, but no less statement-making, Hermès Birkin – and this is not just true when it comes to handbags; it applies to that essential summer purchase, a new pair of shades, as well.

Whether you buy Vivienne Westwood’s sunnies, with her orb insignia emblazoned in crystals on the arm, or a pair of Cutler & Gross’s logo-free titanium aviators, your choice speaks volumes. “Those who prefer a small logo browse Persol and Prada,” says Richard Peck, MD of David Clulow opticians. “Those who don’t want to pass unnoticed will go for Chanel or Versace, or perhaps a Bulgari frame with Austrian crystals on the arm.”

“We’re about sex and glamour,” says Donatella Versace. “We can dial our branding up, or dial it down, but it’s part of our look. Versace must always be Versace, and branding through graphic motifs, logo and key colours like gold is very much what people like us for.”

Sometimes, more is definitely more but it’s no-logo sunglasses that seem to be in the ascendancy. Partly this has to do with a stealth approach to wealth during recession but it’s also connected to a revival of the 1970s Henry Kissinger and 1950s Clark Kent look, forged, in part, by Lower East Side opticians Moscot. “We’ve been selling that mid-century mod-style look for decades,” says Harvey Moscot, the company’s co-president. “We’ve never chased trends.”

The company trades on its establishment image but is hardwired into the New York fashion scene. It recently created a limited edition frame, The Terry, with photographer Terry Richardson and has also worked with minimalist luxe-sneaker brand Common Projects. (That particular collaboration nods to a parallel spilt in the style of men’s trainers: heavily branded or minimal.)

“The influence of the 1950s era is driving fashion away from the big logo,” says Larry Leight, founder of Oliver Peoples, which celebrates 25 years in business this year and was one of the first brands to embrace the no-logo ethos. “I have always wanted our frames to speak for themselves. And our discreet branding keeps the brand discoverable.” Classic designs, including the Sheldrake and the Benedict, are style perennials.

That kind of pared-down, knowing branding is growing in popularity. Designer Thom Browne’s collaboration with optical company Dita led to a range of shades – riffing on Browne’s skewed 1950s tailoring sensibilities – which replicate the tri-colour stripe from the labels on Browne’s garments, on the tip of each arm. When worn, it is barely visible. “Discreet, but detail heavy,” says Jeff Solorio, co-founder of Dita.

Then there are the companies that eschew any exterior motif. British brand Oliver Goldsmith was founded in 1926 and much of its style is embedded in the sharply tailored cinematic 1960s. The Renzo is an understated classic. “Branding through design is much smarter,” says the company’s head, Claire Goldsmith. “One of the design features of the collection is the contoured temple. People in the know recognise it as Oliver Goldsmith. New customers are so happy to find something without diamante and branding scribbled all over it.”

Even when a logo does appear in 2012 it often has a modernist, matter-of-fact style. Jack Spade makes a virtue of its simple, low-key, upper case, sans serif logo. The range of sunglasses the company has produced with Selima Optique bears it on the inside of the arms.

The new range of shades from Brioni, in 15 variants, is as luxurious as it is stylish – taking aviator and rectangular shapes and refining them with Zeiss crystal lenses, deerskin cases and hand finished horn arms that bend 180 degrees – though the Brioni logo is merely etched in the corner of a lens. “We didn’t want to put the logo on the horn arms,” says artistic director Jason Basmajian. “We wanted to give the product a signature but Brioni is about a personal expression of style and doesn’t need a major logo to justify it.”


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