Last weekend, from the 9th to the 11th April was Optrafair. This is the annual Optical Exhibition at the NEC Birmingham, and I love to go. It is a chance to catch up with the latest lens technologies and see the latest frame styles; there is some amazing eyewear fashion out there!
What really caught my attention was how the Retro styling has been tweaked with a fresh modern look, it’s really exciting. There are some amazing colours and blends; I really can’t wait for them to come into the practice.
Going to the NEC this year wasn’t as easy as normal. With my practices in Spondon and Whitwick, and living in Derby, it would seem easy to get to Birmingham. Just nip down the A38 and you’re there! However through circumstances far too tortuous to elaborate on, this year Optrafair coincided with the annual break when Wendy and I go away with my mother, this year to a cabin near Boot in the Lake District. Not quite so easy….
At 7.30 on Monday morning Wendy and I left the cabin for the hours drive over Lake District passes and single track roads to get a train from Oxenholme to Birmingham International Station. Virgin Trains were very efficient and comfortable and just after midday we met CJ and started our exploration of Optrafair.
Our first call wasn’t frame oriented at all, but very much related to High-Tec lenses. As you may have seen from my previous blogs, I am very interested in eyesight and screens, and I wanted to chat to the Zeiss lens specialist Chris about the Digital lens that they have. This is the lens that is specially designed to help reduce eyestrain for anyone that finds it tiring using a pad or screen but doesn’t need a special reading correction. I have known about it for a year or so, and have used it very successfully in practice, but I wanted to see if anything had changed. Zeiss have found that it has been very useful, and when used with the Blue-Absorb coating has been shown to really make people’s life easier. Very interesting indeed.
And now to the frames and sunglasses. Well nearly. Just starting to wander and we came across the Optipets stand. If you haven’t seen these before, these are ceramic spectacle stands in the shape of animals, noses, footballs, in fact nearly everything. They are great fun. We have been selling them for a few years and they are really popular with kids (and adults!) of all ages. There is a new range out; we’ll be having them in soon!
I have always been very keen on protecting eyes from damaging radiation and light from the sun. This is so important for adults, but even more so for kids. So the next call was to the Bolle Stand. I was hoping to meet Dean, our local specialist who unfortunately wasn’t there, but no problem, we were very well looked after. I was really impressed by the new designs. From stylish general protection to cycling to running to water sports, they have something for everyone. I particularly wanted to look at the kids range, and I wasn’t disappointed. With both the Bolle and Cebe sunglasses the thought that has gone into making great eye protection that kids will wear is very impressive. They understand that there is no point in making great eyewear which the kids don’t like! I was hoping to have a look at the full range of the new Serengeti sunglasses but I couldn’t get near the display, there was some sort of meeting going on. Later, perhaps. They are such great sunglasses, and I really like stocking and selling such a quality product.
Next we called in to the Silhouette stand. I was really looking forward to seeing the latest Silhouette and Adidas styles. What a good decision. James was there to show us the really interesting ideas that they have developed. Silhouette are world renowned for making incredibly lightweight rimless styles, and their latest offerings are superb. However they have released something really different, so beautifully lightweight and interesting modern styles in a special plastic material that is quite stunning. I’m sure that they will be a very popular addition to my practices. I was also very impressed with the Adidas designs; they are building so strongly on their sporting heritage, very modern designs with great materials which make them stylish and so easy to wear.
Whilst wandering around we came across a stand that had the Janet Reger range of frames and sunglasses. They were really nicely made, and very stylish. My only concern is whether Janet Reger is seen as a fashion eyewear designer, and whether people would be happy to be seen wearing it. What do you think?
After calling in to the Cecop stand to have a look at their latest ranges (some really nice stuff) it was time to start wandering. If you’ve ever been to any large exhibition there comes a point where the brain starts switching off and no amount of coffee or anything else helps. I had reached this state and was just wandering aimlessly when my attention dropped on one of the most amazing pair of sunglasses that I have seen for ages. My eye then alighted upon the rest of the range, and I knew I had found something special. The range was from Vanni. They are designed in Italy, made in Italy using their own materials in many cases, in fact they are Italian. They are really fun, great quality and I’m really excited by them. I then was shown a range called the Vinyl Factory, which is so Retro that it is cutting edge. With both sunglasses and ophthalmic frames they cover a really wide part of the modern fashion spectrum. Both Wendy and CJ found frames that they loved and looked stunning on them. Needless to say, the range will be arriving soon. What an inspired wander that was.
And so the time came to make the trek back to Birmingham International Station. After a day walking around the NEC, it is a long way! Finally the station came into view, the platform and then the train, what a welcome sight. A comfortable trip back to Oxenholme, the drive across the fells and then finally the cabin. The end to a great, worthwhile day where I learnt a great deal, and have a really good idea of what the future holds on fashion trends. Exciting.