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Shades That Slay: The Hottest Sunglasses of Summer 2023

Fashion Beauty Runway - Shades That Slay - The Hottest Sunglasses of Summer 2023 1

Pharrell Williams’ diamond-studded shades from Tiffany, totalling over 20 carats, are a gazillion light years away from the first sun-shielding devices made from walrus ivory and worn by the Inuit. Between protection, proper vision and fashion there are a myriad possibilities regarding frames. 

But what is it about sunglasses that makes them so hugely important when it comes to creating a killer look? 

Sunglasses to Heighten Attractiveness 

According to academic studies, shades dial up the attractiveness factor because they create more symmetry on faces. And symmetry has been scientifically tied to our cultural perception of beauty. What’s more, the darker lenses are extremely forgiving to cover up any signs of the previous nights’ excesses, making features appear softer (translation: less flawed), while the frames make the bone structure look extra chiselled. And that’s always a plus. 

It was only close to 100 years ago, in 1929, that sunglasses were commercialized by Sam Foster and became a hot selling fashion accessory on the boardwalks of Atlantic City. In 1936, eye health company Bausch & Lomb introduced Ray-Bans — the name literally means ‘bans rays’—, the iconic aviator sunglasses originally produced to meet the needs of American military pilots by providing effective protection from the sun’s rays while ensuring clear vision and reduced glare, thanks to polarizing lenses. The design that sparked a new and enduring trend has changed little over time but generated millions of clones, in the last 90 years. 

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A collection of eyewear Inspired by Venetian lace from Lio Occhiali. Photo: Courtesy Georges Laoun.

A Plethora of Styles 

Some stars have been clearly defined by their iconic eyewear: Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with a style that helped launch oversized dark tortoiseshell sunglasses for women; Elton John in the 80s had an impressive collection featuring flamboyant frames, bold colours and lavish designs; Anna Wintour, the editrix of Vogue, wears her onyx shades 24/7. Has anyone ever actually seen her pupils?

And the rest of us, mere mortals, has diligently tried to follow suit. In 2023, almost everyone in Canada owns at least one pair of sunnies. And some fashion fans are known to possess a veritable wardrobe of many different styles of sunglasses, from diminutive jewel-encrusted cat-eye frames to oversized wrap frames, and everything in between. 

The global market for sunglasses has been experiencing steady growth over the years. In 2019, sales were about 16 billion U.S. dollars. And it’s projected to reach approximately 28 billion U.S. dollars by 2027, indicating a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 7.6% during the forecast period. Not bad for a fashion accessory that’s often perceived as being superfluous and superficial. Like many other fashion items, that is… 

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The Sunnies to Choose for 2023 

Despite the concept of seasonal trends being less and less relevant, there are still some general shapes, palettes and detailing that are current when it comes to fashion accessories. And eyewear, of course. 

So here are some shapes to watch for this summer! 

Sleek and sporty: Athleisure is still trending hard. And you’ll need the eyewear to go with your athletic-inspired clothing and accessories to pick up your latte after that run. Think cyclist shades meet VR goggles, with a streamlined, futuristic shape. 

Visor and shield lenses: They’re bold and they make heads turn. And mono-lens and shield sunglasses are ready to make a statement on your face, too. Even Dior and Chanel pre-owned wrap sunglasses with mirrored lenses from the early aughts are selling for hundreds of dollars on resale sites. 

Rounded cat-eye: Always on the radar since the 1950s, this timeless shape works with vintage and cute outfits — particularly the longer, body-hugging skirts of this summer. But the cat-eye shape of today is softer and less angular than the original models. 

Rectangular: Squarer shapes are maintaining their standing and have a retro Y2K vibe that’s very cool. A simple silhouette, which allows room to play with colour and tinted lenses, a feature that has garnered popularity in recent years. 

Whimsical details: Ultra-personalized items and gender-fluid styles are the foundation of many current fashion ideas. And what better way to explore this customization than playing with a variety of textures, shapes, and colours? Think geometric motifs, asymmetric detailing and fun touches on your sunglasses or optical frames.  

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Luxe Upcycling: A handmade frame by Italian brand W-Eye using recycled wood and laminated with a beer can. Photo: Courtesy Georges Laoun.

Couture Eyewear 

Just like for clothing and accessories, there are two worlds when it comes eyewear: fast fashion and couture. If the former relies on baseless copying, churning out popular models by the thousands in questionable factory conditions and cheap-quality materials, the second category of eyewear is definitely collection-worthy and handmade by true artisans. So let’s call it ‘couture eyewear.’ 

Laura Laoun, Communications Director for Georges Laoun Opticien in Montreal, a shop that carries an extensive selection of outstanding and exclusive frames and sunglasses, explains that when you choose glasses handmade by an independent designer or label, “You’re investing in the craftsmanship, the passion and the detail which is what makes the eyewear so special.” 

Laoun’s two shops, the first situated in close proximity to the Museum of Fine Arts on Sherbrooke Street West and the second on St-Denis Street, offer a range of super-exclusive brands. Among them is W-Eye, a remarkable example of meticulous design and precision engineering. Each frame of this eyewear collection made in Italy is meticulously crafted using a lamination technique that combines seven lightweight wooden strips with two aluminum strips. Notably, the Superlativa collection exemplifies true luxury eyewear, featuring a delicate layer of mother-of-pearl adorning the exterior of the frames.

Georges Laoun only carries small production runs. “We buy one of each model. Maybe two in different colours. When you’re investing in a piece that really speaks to you, it’s nice to know that you’re the only one that’s going to have it. We’ve always loved the arts and this is important when it comes to the products we sell. This is where our passion lies,” explains Laura. 

Much like fashion, beauty and lifestyle products offering uniqueness and excellence above all, sustainability and traceability are important when considering a high-end pair of shades. “We build long-term relationships with most of the designers we feature. Every single frame is someone’s dream. As you get to talk to them, it brings an inanimate object to life.” 

And what a beautiful story that is to frame your eyes with… 

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