A new race of small designer-oriented eyewear fairs is building up in Europe as a complement to the bigger and more generalist international eyewear shows. They mainly cater to opticians who want to have a distinctive offer in their stores for a demanding clientele.
The first and most exclusive event of the kind is probably the Hall of Frames. Founded five years ago by a Swiss distributor, Nathanaël Wenger, this annual event will take place in Zurich just after Silmo, on Oct. 5 and 6. Because of the limited space of the centrally located venue that hosts the event, the fair will only feature 42 selected brands.
The exhibitors include well-known designer brands such as Adrian Marwitz, Bellinger, Claire Goldsmith, Face à Face, Fleye, Götti, Italian Independent, Kirk & Kirk, Lindberg, Masunaga, Mykita and TD Tom Davies, but also a more mainstream brand, Maui Jim, which is not showing at Silmo this year. Their collections will be displayed on 42 tables. There are no costly stands at the Hall of Frames. The focus is on the products on display.
Wenger is expecting buyers from more than 200 “boutique opticians” from Switzerland and neighboring countries, up from 170 last year. The success of the concept has led him to start a similar show under the same name in Stuttgart on Oct. 18-19, and one in Cologne next April 25-26, in cooperation with a partner of Bellinger in Germany.
The show in Stuttgart will host about 50 collections and is expecting a similar number of visitors. Due to strong demand, the show in Cologne, the city that hosted the Optika fair before the launch of Opti München, will probably accommodate more exhibitors. It will be called “Die Brillenmesse” (the eyewear fair) to avoid any confusion with the more generalist fair in the Netherlands that has the same name as the Swiss one.
Wenger pointed out that he could have two or three times more exhibitors if he were less selective. The brands that are allowed to show at the Hall of Frames are carefully selected by a committee of older exhibitors based on the quality and creativity of the designs and their sales potential, but they are also keen on avoiding direct competition. The Hall of Frames has set up a jury, led by the British design guru Joan Grady, that elects the “best in show” and the best newcomer of the year.
Wenger is considering exporting the Hall of Frames format to other countries. Meanwhile, similar designer-oriented shows have sprung up in other countries. The latest one is Copenhagen Specs, which took place in the Danish capital in March, hosting 40 exhibitors including some of the best Danish and international brands. It was attended by about 630 visitors, mostly from Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany.
Morten Gammelmark, founder and chief executive of Copenhagen Specs, hopes to attract more brands and visitors to the next edition of the show, scheduled at the same venue, the Lokomotiv workshop of Copenhagen, for March 7-8, 2015. Admission is free for all visitors, but they must register at the show's website, where they can find more information about the fair.
An even more exclusive event of this kind is the Design Your Eyewear exhibition near Bari, in the Apulia region of Italy. It will be held for the third year in a row on Oct. 18-19 in a strategic location near the local store of Eataly, a big chain of exclusive gourmet food markets.
The show was started by three independent opticians in the region - Sabino Bux, Michele Cassano and Costantino Gesualdo - who were tired of carrying commercial brands and wanted different stories to tell to their customers. They are working together with a communication specialist, Luisa Redaelli, who will hold a series of workshops at the fair to train store personnel for the sale of designer eyewear.
The final list of the exhibitors will soon be available on the website of Design Your Eyewear. The show will only host about 40 well-known brands such as J-F Rey and less known ones from Italy and abroad. With 35 exhibitors presenting 70 brands, last year's show was bigger, and it attracted about 500 visitors from all over Italy, but the organizers have introduced this time a new requirement for admission: The brands must certify the country where their glasses are manufactured, even if they are not made in Italy.