Outdoor Retail Gear Trends: 2016 Sunglasses / Eyewear

The search for one pair of eyewear that does it all. Check out what's ahead in outdoor eyewear for retail shelves in 2016.
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In eyewear, adventure and lifestyle frames are reflecting edgier styles, while greater photochromic lens ranges and bio-friendly frame resins are upping performance and sustainability.

The trends point toward a consumer demand for a more minimalist approach — one durable pair of eyewear that’s good for everything. And, hopefully, when those sunglasses inevitably get lost, they cause little to no harm to the earth.

“We used to have fashion pieces and functional sport pieces. Now we’re seeing a demand for a functional product with a contemporary lifestyle look,” said John Sanchez, vice president of product development at Native Eyewear and Costa Sunglasses.

In contemporary vintage fashion, Costa Sunglasses announces the half-rim Pawleys (MSRPs $199-$279) with the 580 color enhancing lens — which filters out yellow and ultraviolet blue light for fatigue reduction and improved contrast and clarity — and the brand lines up a second more rounded, teardrop-shaped frame. Kaenon adds the best-selling ladies’ Georgia to the golden-hour inspired Gold Coast Collection with a polarized subtle-gold flash mirror lens (MSRP $224).

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“I don’t know if the trend is the cause of disposable income, but there seems to be a very fast growing segment of consumer that wasn’t spoken to the in the past — in the past you were either preppy or an athletic competitor,” Sanchez said. “Now, there’s a request for those that are neither hardcore fashionistas or hardcore athletes. The everyday outdoor consumer with a general active lifestyle that wants to wear one product to lunch, the office, on a bike ride, a 5K or kicking a ball in the backyard.”

Celebrating contemporary-athletic style, Native Eyewear’s Flatirons (MSRPs $109-$129) boast an all-new plant-based castor resin, which enables the sunglasses to biodegrade in 3 to 5 years in the landfill compared to petroleum-based resins — which, comparatively disappear after 700 years in the ocean or 1,000 on soil. A starting block in the athleisure wolf pack, Sunski debuts an angular punk-styled retro silhouette with a thicker polycarbonate hardcoat (to improve scratch resistance) dubbed Rounded Square (MSRP $55), which is “like the love child of John Lennon’s glasses and Edmund Hillary’s glacier goggles,” said Sunski Co-founder Michael Charley.

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“We’re seeing a culture shift of the millennials into wanting to spend more time outside, but the hardcore technical equipment products — and the inherent language and communication — don’t necessarily resonate with the casual urban demographic that needs athletic products,” Charley said.

Also, eye protection for anglers has evolved into a broader category, the coastal consumer — those that lake fish, boat and venture around coastal environments — which is also a product area in which women have become more prevalent, Sanchez said. Costa Sunglasses addresses the expansion with more unisex pairs, suitable for smaller female or male faces. For casting, Smith launches the eight-base Guide’s Choice (MSRPs $209-$249) with wide glare-protecting temples, which can be paired with either the polarized, photochromic Techlite glass lens or proprietary ChromaPop polarized lens for color clarity and definition. Likewise incorporating eco-design, the pair incorporates the 53 percent bio-based lightweight Evolve frame.

Outshining lens capabilities, Zeal Optics unleashes the stylish Big Timber and Decoy (MSRPs $219), two Z-Resin pairs (made from castor-bean oil resin), featuring the AutoSun technology: a polarized, photochromic lens with a 15 to 28 percent visible light transmission (VLT) range. From Optic Nerve Eyewear, the photochromic lens featured in the fresh rimless Reactor (MSRP $89) adjusts from rose to smoke and back to rose — a VLT of 23 to 80 percent — in 7 to 11 seconds. And, swinging wide with photochromic capability, Bliz Active Eyewear rockets-off the Ultra Lens Science in the Force and Rapid (MSRPs $199) with a 15 to 89 percent VLT. The lens is virtually clear indoors and adapts for outdoor sports protection such as trail running and cross country skiing. On the sporty side, it’s a prime example of one lens that does it all.

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--Morgan Tilton

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