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Silmo 2013: an energetic fusion of fashion and function

The cacophony of sound, vibrant colours and bustling activity could not help but give visitors the impression they’re part of a vital and innovative industry, and no doubt visitors left being energised and inspired.The Mondial de l’Optique (World Optical Fair) attracted a total of 35,103 visitors to tread the aisles featuring 950 suppliers and 1,350 brands from across the world.Exhibitors’ wares spanned optical frames, sunglasses, lenses, contact lenses, materials, store design and layout, accessories and services, thereby providing visitors access to all that is new under the one roof.When pounding the aisles, Silmo is certainly an assault on all the senses, the exhibitor booths – whether exceptionally large or small – were impressive with true innovation and creativity alive and well.Exhibitors rose to the challenge to attract and delight visitors: the Artlife booth inspired by an old school barber shop had a hairdresser on hand to style your hair, on the Ic! Berlin stand a large retro caravan was serving out food and drinks with every table always being full, the Inface booth also had a food van serving hot dogs, garden tea parties were the flavour on stands such as Ted Baker and Andy Wolf, several booths featured DJs spinning the decks to get your foot tapping, there were random outbursts of singing and dancing across many stands, and of course many booths had coffee, alcohol and various canapés on offer.Of course the end objective of fun and engaging booth activity is to do business. And it ses serious business was being done.Everywhere you looked, visitors were poring over trays of exhibitor ranges – obligatory glass of champagne in hand – while the exhibitor frantically wrote up orders.Harco Witteveen on the 4 Contra 1 booth told Insight: Silmo is very much a commercial show. A lot of business is done here – certainly more than is done at Mido in Milan. With timing aligned with Paris fashion week, Silmo’s president Philippe Lafont said: Our role is both to surprise and to be a catalyst … of major trends, talents, innovations unveiled at the exhibition, but also of new brands choosing this event to launch their products. Striking and often fluorescent colour seed to be one of predominant current flavours in both men’s and women’s optical and sunglass frames, whether in acetate or metal.Patterns and various frame materials were also on show. Insight noted there were several wood frame suppliers exhibiting at Silmo, although you have to ponder the longevity of this trend, and thereby longevity of these highly-specialised companies.Metals also appeared to be a strong trend in men’s eyewear. Silmo provides the opportunity for many independent practices to differentiate thselves with unique ranges.Visitors were spoiled for choice, the only challenge being which ranges to pick out of the seingly inexhaustible ranges available at Silmo.Insight spoke with Adelaide optometrist Paul Fotkou of Eyes on Vision who was at Silmo for this very reason: Selecting a new range at a show like Silmo that is unique to truly differentiate yourself in your market can be rather arduous if you don’t have a plan. I tend to spend the first day of the show looking at what’s on offer. I ask the exhibitor to give me a brief idea of what the brand is about and to show me a few of the models in the range. I then spend a day thinking about all I have seen and how it fits with the practice. It is only then I go back to do my buying. The need for organising your time when buying at Silmo was also echoed by other independent optometristsInsight chatted to suppliers from North America and Europe, each highlighted the need to have clear objectives, a budget and planning your time because any serious discussions with a supplier can take several hours out of your day.In partnership with GfK, one of the world’s largest research companies, Silmo released European optical market data including trend data.For the first half of 2013, research showed that turnover was only 0.7 per cent higher than the same period previous year at a turnover of 7.3 billion indicating a stable market.The research tracks data for sunglasses, optical frames, spectacle lenses, contact lenses and contact lens care products.Out of all those products, ophthalmic lenses which represent around 60 per cent of a practice’s revenue, delivered the strongest growth of 4 per cent.It was found that ophthalmic lenses unit sales volume decreased 0.5 per cent thereby suggesting that prium lenses are being sold.Spectacle frames turnover showed a slight decrease of 2 per cent but conversely donstrated a volume increase of 1.5 per cent suggesting that consumers were spending less on spectacle frames.The sunglass segment continues its negative trend dropping by 7 per cent. Contact lenses and contact lens care products showed a flat trend of 0 per cent growth.A show of Silmo’s prestige and size usually means the eyewear designers are easily accessible for visitors to meet with and discuss ranges.Regular Australian visitors Eyes Right Optical directors David and Gaye Wymond were at Silmo to meet with designers and to buy the Eyes Right new ranges for Australian practices.Insight was fortunate to shadow Mr Wymond while meeting with designers from Face à Face, Woow, ProDesign Denmark and Morel for a better understanding of what each brand stands for, the story behind the brand and the hottest releases at Silmo.When you hear about the inspiration behind each design along with the functional benefits, you really do have a greater appreciation for the creativity and meaning behind each design.When sitting down with Face à Face co-founder and designer Pascal Jaulent, he shared the hottest new releases timed with Silmo: The key to the Face à Face range is a fusion between art and fashion that gives the wearer the power to express their personality through their eyewear, Mr Jaulent told Insight.He showed a limited edition high-end ‘Punk It’ women’s sunglass range in three colours that feature a total of 58 studs on each frame. Only 300 in each colour have been made and luckily for Australian practitioners, Eyes Right managed to secure some of this allotment. Insight also met up with first-time Australian exhibitor Niloca founders Josie and Colin Redmond to discuss their range and reason for exhibiting at Silmo.Designer Mr Redmond, whose varied background is industrial design, design consultancy in electrical and medical devices, and R&D in energy conservation, told Insight: Our style is very avant-garde and very much reflects our personal taste. Our experience at Silmo is that our range is very eclectic. We don’t need to explain our design principles to visitors that love the range. They just get it what the range is about. Niloca picked up ten new accounts on the first day alone, supplenting their current Australian accounts.What surprised Mr Redmond was that the collection – that is manufactured in both Australia and France – proved to be of greatest interest to Canadian and North American practitioners, in addition to the Europeans.In addition to the exhibition, Silmo also featured an acady providing lectures and technical workshops, and a merchandising workshop.With fashion being a major development goal for the optics and eyewear sector, a ‘Fashion Style’ area was dedicated to men and women’s fashion brands in the ready-to-wear and haute-couture segments to showcase trending frames, and clothes and accessories.Silmo will be held again in Paris on 26-29 Septber, 2014.

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