Much like perfume and lipstick, eyewear is the easiest way to buy into luxury brands, with sunglasses and prescription frames costing just a fraction of designer labels’ apparel and handbags.
Owing to this, the luxury eyewear market has had an organic growth in the Philippines, with many consumers aspiring to own a piece of this so-called affordable luxury.
“The eyewear is the first thing people see, especially with prescription frames. It’s a nice accessory to make a good first impression,” says Neelam Gopwani, marketing head of Branded Lifestyle Inc. (BLI), a family-owned enterprise that distributes over 40 designer eyewear brands like Ray-Ban, Bulgari, Prada, Miu Miu, Dolce & Gabana, Versace, among others.
The proliferation of cheaper brands and those nameless, generic eyewear found in department stores have helped boost the luxury eyewear market, Gopwani adds.
“It’s just like people who buy fast fashion, eventually they want to go up a notch and buy branded clothes,” she says. “Those [budget] brands benefit us in the end, because people want to move up. And what’s the easiest way to wear the brands they’ve been longing for than eyewear?”
Gopwani says BLI is now seeing growth not just in the fashion category. More Filipinos are becoming concerned about their well-being that they now see the benefit of investing in more expensive, high-quality prescription lenses.
She notes that more customers are asking for specialty lenses, polarized ones, for instance, which not only protect the eyes from the sun’s UV rays but also prevent eyestrain when using the computer.
“Some prescription lenses aren’t cheap. It’s an underrated category. But we’re seeing quite a growth in this area. We’re a service, so we’re more than just fashion. We’re a necessity,” she says.
BLI owns the Vision Express chain of optical shops, as well as Eye Society, its high-end counterpart.
Bread and butter
Gopwani’s team recently unveiled the new “It Takes Courage” campaign of Ray-Ban, BLI’s “bread and butter,” which comprises a 60-percent market share in its portfolio.
The iconic brand has undergone another reinvention with updates on its classic styles: the Aviator (now with gradient flash—or mirrored colored—lenses); the Wayfarer (sporty and foldable, with flash lenses); the Gatsby (with a trendy double bridge); the Metal (ultra-thin and super light), among others—targeted at its vast market demographic.
Like other BLI brands, Ray-Ban styles here come in Asian sizes, designed for “wider nose, lower bridge, round face.”
“We have such a vast market in the Philippines, and it’s quite aware of what’s trendy in the world, so we need to constantly respond to that,” says Gopwani.
For its high-end customers, it brings in a limited number of select items like, say, a 21k gold eyewear from Bulgari (about P85,000); Swarovski-studded Dolce & Gabana (P76,000); and the Belgian brand Theo, which retails from P40,000-up.
Next year, BLI will unveil hip labels from Japan and Korea, which specialize in edgy odd shapes.