SILMO Paris 2016 a success despite caution in Europe

SILMO Paris’ final delegate count represented a small decline over the 2015 show but with all the probls besetting Western Europe at the moment, and especially France, event organisers would have been expecting a larger fall in attendance figures throughout the four-day event.SILMO exhibitions director Mr Eric Lenoir said, “Overall, I consider the final results for 2016 a success even though visitor numbers were down by 1.3% on last year. [Most] trade shows since the Paris terrorists attacks last Novber suffered a 15–20% decrease in attendance, however our business ses to have been quite good.”Interestingly, Australian visitor numbers rose by 12% this year to 242 while there were only 33 New Zealand visitors in attendance, a 21% decline on last year. Mr Lenoir said that when it came to Kiwi visitors, it seed that “even years are always weaker than odd years”.The 49th edition of the international trade fair featured 900 exhibitors displaying 1,350 brands across 80,000 sq m of floor space, and according to a post-fair report, visitor numbers broke down as “56.5% from abroad and 43.5% from France”.Mr Jonathan Hennessy Sceats, managing director of Jono Hennessy Group and a long-time exhibitor, noted the air of caution in Paris, away from the exhibition centre.{{image3-a:r-w:300}}“We have been exhibiting at SILMO in Paris for nine years which has been wonderful, so our relationship directly with practice owners is great and very informative,” he said. “Unfortunately, the troubles in France and Belgium have created some feelings of caution and it’s affecting people. For the first time I noticed this generally around the city.“However, that aside, at this year’s show the stronger fashion shapes and 70s-inspired designs were at the forefront of the designer area.”Sunday Somewhere was another Australian supplier showcasing its products at this year’s event.{{image4-a:r-w:300}}“This was the fifth time we have exhibited at SILMO,” creative director Mr Dave Allison explained. “Coincidentally, our brand recently celebrated five years, so we have shown at SILMO every year. It was a great show for us.It is the global trade show platform we choose to release all of our new season designs and colours to the market. Most visitors at SILMO are European, which provides us with an instant gauge for new designs and trends in this market,” he added.Aussie eyewear designs and designers se to be de rigueur in Paris if the two Sydney-based brands are any indication.{{image5-a:r-w:300}}Mr Allison noted, “It ses that Australian and Kiwi brands are revered at a show like SILMO. Our designs are fashionable [and] bold; there’s a considered uniqueness which makes the frames different enough to stand out in a very saturated market place. For our brands, and us, celebrity endorsent is key to making noise and gaining cut-through.”Mr Sceats echoed the comments: “Europeans see Australia as a luxury destination … so many people want to visit. So there is a good feeling in Europe for Australian brands.“Our stand is in the designer area, which is for independent designers and brands targeting independent Europe practices. And although there are a lot of exhibitors, if you look closely, there are only about 25 to 30 specialist suppliers who look after the boutique independents with the same level of individuality and reliable delivery.{{image6-a:r-w:300}}After nine years at SILMO we are now recognised as part of this select designer group for a market of more than 9,000 optical practices,” he added.Sunshades Eyewear was a first-time exhibitor this year, and chief executive officer Mr Rodney Grunseit was extrely happy with his business’ results. He attributed success at the trade fair to Sunshades’ different approach.“Unlike many other suppliers, we are not only focused on independent practices, who make up an important part of the audience and our existing business – we were also there to meet with larger optical groups and other large retailers, including duty-free stores.{{image7-a:r-w:300}}“From experience, we have found that it’s better to focus on our strengths, so we arranged meetings in advance with key retail groups. A focus on buying groups means we can essentially meet a network of 200+ practitioners at once and confirm significant volumes of business,” he said.Mr Grunseit added that Sunshades staff met with one of the world’s largest duty-free chains and are finalising a deal for its brands to be supplied into 50 doors internationally as a starting point.DESIGN SUCCESSSuccess at any trade show depends on a number of things, and for Mr Allison, it was about the product design. He believed a balance of clean lines, modern design and bold colours was what helped Sunday Somewhere stand out from the crowd. “When designing, I approach every frame design with a ‘classic with a twist’ mindset,” he said.{{image8-a:r-w:300}}For Mr Sceats, it was about a wide range of issues: “Ultimately, it’s the product design and quality that determines the success in any market. The patient is the one who must like how they look and feel in the frames they choose. Of course the style, fashion, quality, and fit are important, as is the price.”Another Australian making his way back to Paris this year, albeit wearing a different ‘hat’, was Mr Mark Blackadder. Formerly of Logo Australia, distributor of Tag Heuer Eyewear, Mr Blackadder decided to go it alone by starting a new eyewear supply business, MYM Group.“My trip this year was very different because I was not attending as an ployee of an international company,” he said. “I was attending in my own right as a new independent eyewear distributor to meet with our brands, Flair and Vuarnet, as well as be on the lookout for new European collections and product not current available in Australia.{{image9-a:r-w:300}}I must say, with this newfound outlook I was extrely disappointed that a lot of the product looked the same and were the same quality, being made in China.”Mr Sceats agreed: “Having walked around the show, if I was a buyer, I might have thought that a lot of the product looked a bit the same, especially the sunglasses. So again, relationships and trust in products and brands is a big part of individual success [for smaller suppliers] at the show.”The need to be noticed among 900 exhibitors becomes a major priority and there is no doubt that some of the stands do an excellent job at gaining attention. Indeed, it’s sometimes hard to fathom whether you are at an optical fair given that some stands look like anything otherthan eyewear.STANDING OUT FROM THE CROWD{{image10-a:r-w:300}}From London buses, motorbikes and vintage carts to ice cream stalls and hairdressers, SILMO exhibitors strive to stand out.Most notable was Vinyl Factory, which decked out its stand as a rock ‘n’ roll diner with booth-like seats and guitar-lined walls, while serving freshly cooked hot dogs and French fries to optical buyers – complete with loud music and 1950s-styled rock ‘n’ roll dancers.Vinyl Factory was busy all day every day, as were most of the exhibitors who attpted to create a point of difference; however, it can be a costly exercise.{{image11-a:r-w:300}}The Sunshades Eyewear stand was centrally located, though it took a more low-key approach. Mr Grunseit said, “We also used SILMO to solidify our existing global network across most countries in the world so we had an extrely satisfactory result.In fact, if we look at how much we grew our international business from SILMO, it would be as much as 20%.“[We] are quite different to most of the exhibitors there because we sell fashion not function. We don’t focus on selling optical frames to optometrists who are usually very conservative and who don’t take risks when placing orders.{{image12-a:r-w:300}}We take the opposite approach: we want a high-fashion product that celebrities will wear and that’s what sets us apart.”He believed that because of an innovative approach, “global luxury brands are increasingly approaching us to design and manufacture for th, and that’s happening at an unprecedented rate at the moment”.Mr Blackadder acknowledged the ever-increasing competition, and as large as the show is, he believed it was almost imperative to attend.“I think that SILMO is a necessity for any eyewear distributor to be able to see what’s new and catch up with current suppliers,” he said. “It’s also an ideal way to see the brand competition in the market.”{{image13-a:r-w:300}}Like any market, there are new trends and constant shifts in consumer dand and a large part of the changing market is technology.“Technological advancents and innovations are huge trend-drivers these days,” Mr Allison observed. “It’s important for brands to own trends rather than simply following th.“Over the coming 12 months I think you will see thinner acetates, sheet metals in many colours and utilising various finishes, more daring types of combinations such as metal/acetate frames and some experimental lens colours (mirror is still very relevant though in more subtle versions) as well as see-through lenses driven by the 60s and 70s fashion era.”Being a trend follower, however, does not guarantee long-term success.{{image14-a:r-w:300}}“There are always shifts in the market but they are normally following fashion trends that often only last one season,” Mr Blackadder said.“The longevity of any brand depends on the creativity of its design team to be unique and offer sustained sales growth without the need to rely on a trend or copying another design.”Interestingly, Mr Grunseit believed that what is often termed Australia’s ‘tyranny of distance’ actually helped Australian eyewear design and creativity.{{image15-a:r-w:300}}“I think Australian designers are more willing to take risks. Maybe that’s because we are so far away from the major markets and even though it’s a global market these days, in some regards our isolation means we tend to take extra effort to stand out from the often conservative US and European suppliers,” he explained.He was a big advocate for Australia being a major player in eyewear design, especially in sunglasses. “I have had a company saying for a long time but I have had to change it recently. I used to say in the future tense, ‘The Italians are known for their handbags and the Swiss are known for their watches – Australia will become known for our sunglasses.’ However these days, I think Australia is now known and recognised for our sunglass designs.”{{image16-a:r-w:300}}SILMO Paris will next be held from 6–9 October 2017 and Mr Lenoir said, “2017 will be an important year for SILMO. The show will celebrate its 50th anniversary and the world’s oldest optics and eyewear trade show will rain the most innovative and creative one.”* Coleby Nicholson attended SILMO Paris courtesy of the show organiser.

Winners of the SILMO d’Or prizes were announced and both prize-winning and nominated products were shown at the exhibition.{{image17-a:r-w:300}}After a selection of products were nominated by various specialised juries, a grand jury consisting of the SILMO president and eight other mbers (experts in every category, as well as major international buyers and journalists) elected the prize-winners for each category.The 2016 SILMO d’Or prize-winners were:

  • Low Vision: Essilor ‘My Eye’, Ceciaa ‘Nu Eyes’
  • Special Prize: VISIOLE ‘Go Vision’
  • Children: KNCO ‘Bili’ by Karavan Kids
  • Sport Equipment: DETZ ‘Lazer-Run’
  • Frame Technological Innovation: Oxibis Group ‘77H’ by Exalto
  • ‘Priere Classe’ Prize: Pride Eyewear ‘305 BL’
  • Material/Equipment: Netlooks ‘3D’
  • Vision: Essilor ‘Eye Protect Syst’
  • Sunglasses: Parasite Design ‘Anti Retro X’
  • Optical Frame: Blake Kuwahara ‘Khan’
  • Jury Special Prize: Kuboraum ‘Maske E3’.

* Insight will provide an update on some of the new products launched at SILMO including the award winners in the Decber issue.

SILMO Paris 2016 Photo Gallery


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