LONDON – Just as major Chinese cities are obsessed with tomorrow’s mega-construction projects designed by famous architects, the country’s fashion consumers have developed a passion for eyewear with a futuristic twist.
Betty Bachz, co-founder of British eyewear brand Møy Atelier, said she has seen plenty of oversized sci-fi-inspired eyewear designs in China, priced at an affordable $ 200.
“Maybe it’s because we think we are already living in a dystopian future. The best new world may already be upon us, the future is now, ”she added.
Riding the trend, Zaha Hadid Design, a lifestyle company founded by the late Zaha Hadid alongside its architecture, unveiled its first eyewear design in collaboration with emerging Chinese eyewear brand The Owner.
The futuristic-looking design comes with a one-piece lens design and a flowing oversized titanium frame that spans the forehead with triangular patterns that Hadid commonly uses in her works in China, such as the opera from Guangzhou, the Morpheus Hotel in Macau and the brand new Beijing Daxing International Airport.
Edison Huang, founder of The Owner, said the design adds curvature to the structure and “redirects the airflow around your face, which looks like many Zaha Hadid architectures.”
“If you wear this piece in a strong wind, you will see that you are not only fashionable, but at the same time it functions as a windshield,” Huang added.
Woody Yao, co-director of Zaha Hadid Design, said the intention behind the initial sketches was to study the unique relationship between the frame and the lens.
“We have sought to explore this dialogue in different ways across the collections. Ultimately we’re interested in the spaces between the frame – the voids, and how these define the relationship with the wearer, ”he added.
This piece and three other commercial styles will be available from February in select stores.
Huang said he pushed for collaboration, not only because he was a big fan of Hadid’s works, which can be found in many Chinese cities, but also because fashion-loving Chinese consumers do aren’t afraid to experiment with glasses these days. .
“They look for individuality, which gives us more room to design unconventional pieces. It doesn’t matter how much we want to twist the shape or add functions to our frames, ”he said.
For example, one of the brand’s most popular models, “Mobius”, inspired by the Mobius bracelet, incorporates two non-parallel interlocking curves that make the glass appear to float on the face and look completely different in different colors. angles.
Jon Yuan, co-founder of Los Angeles-based eyewear brand Bonnie Clyde, also observed that Chinese customers are much more daring to adopt fashion-forward eyewear than those in the West.
“Based on our experiences in the Chinese market, in general, our larger-rimmed acetate sunglasses are among the most popular. These are larger and rounder models, which many of our Asian customers prefer. Thinner frames take longer to be adopted by Chinese customers, ”Yuan said.
Bachz agreed that China is a place where individuality is highly valued, but cautioned that there are also challenges unique to the market.
On the one hand, since much of the world’s eyewear is made in China, it allows imitators to produce seemingly similar products at an alarming rate, offering the hottest styles at a fraction of the price in online marketplaces like Pinduoduo. and Taobao.
In addition, the Chinese market is more trend-driven and driven by celebrity endorsement than in other countries, and the demand for fashion may outweigh the need for authenticity and quality, which makes it very difficult to compete for any independent design-oriented eyewear brand. only on the market, she said.
“As much as we try to communicate that our brand is focused on high-quality Japanese craftsmanship and uses high-end, eco-friendly acetate and glasses from Italy and France, it just doesn’t resonate. as much as the visuals, ”added Bachz. .
Adapting to the innovative local business model could be a way to break through. She admits that “as China is at the forefront of a rapidly changing digital environment, we realize that we have a lot to catch up to in raising awareness of our digital presence, especially during COVID-19.”
Møy Atelier is only sold in China, mainly through traditional high-end retailers such as Lane Crawford and Joyce.
In comparison, 70% of The Owner’s revenue comes from online sales, while the rest comes from the brand’s more than 300 outlets worldwide. The brand actively collaborates with local fashion designers, cultural institutes and electric car manufacturers and, since 2015, has multiplied big Chinese celebrities like Kris Wu, Chris Lee and Fan Bingbing to increase brand awareness.
Meanwhile, Bonnie Clyde has collaborated with Chinese designer brands PH5 and 8on8 on special models and mainly sells in around 20 select boutiques such as Le Monde de SHC in Shanghai and SND in Chongqing.