After the success of its line of sunglasses, launched at the beginning of 2004, the Australian surfwear label is launching its first line of ophthalmic frames in March among opticians worldwide. Believing in the concept of introducing new products four times a year, it is also working on a patented ?revolutionary? hinge system and developing a special snow mask in collaboration with a snowboarding champion, Andreas Jacobson. A communication campaign around the theme of Vikings will be launched at Rip Curl's stand at the ISPO fair in Munich at the end of next week.

The new prescription frame program should give extra credibility to this brand of surf apparel. To this effect, it has appointed a new product manager for eyeglasses in Australia, Luke Blockey, formerly with Dragon. It has also named an optician, Frédérick Herbst, as European product manager for eyeglasses, replacing Nathalie Douillet and reporting to Andy Gugenheimer, the former manager of Oakley Europe and Alain Mikli who acts as international manager of Rip Curl's eyewear project out of its European office on the Basque Coast of France. The new line will be sold by a dedicated sales force in France, and Rip Curl is looking to doing the same thing in Italy and Germany.

Rip Curl managed to sell more than 50,000 pairs of sunglasses to nearly 1,500 accounts worldwide in 2004, with strong performance particularly in Australia, France, the UK, Spain and Brazil. The lenses, which come from BNL, are all glazed by an outside laboratory before they are sent to the stores. One strong selling point is an innovative tubular display with a nice lighting system and a neoprene-coated ring that reminds customers of the brand's surf heritage. It is also being used by some retailers to display the company's watches.

A bigger surfwear company, Quiksilver, started its own prescription eyewear line three years ago with good results, more than doubling its revenues to €2.5 million last year in Europe alone. It wants them to grow by at least 50 percent in the next two years. About 70 percent of the revenues come from France, where the European subsidiary is based, but the brand has already won over 400 customers in Spain and more than 700 in the UK. European sales of Quiksilver sunglasses grew by more than 6 percent to nearly €4 million.

The new push followed Quiksilver's purchase a few years ago of its former eyewear licensee, Omareef. The eyewear operation has been led by Alain Marhic, a former windsurf coach who has been in charge of marketing, sales and product development for Europe. He is now concentrating exclusively on the prescription eyewear project, building up a team around him. Nicholas Foulet, who was handling the marketing side, has taken over his former position. Greg Fletcher is still in charge of product management worldwide.