Plastic is the real thing for frames

Industry insiders are tipping plastic – or cellulose acetate as it’s known in the trade – as the frame material this season, writes Nicky Collinson


Whether it’s used to create the entire frame or in combination with other materials like titanium, plastic is the go-to material for this season’s eyewear designers.

Neal Grimason, of leading UK distributor Continental Eyewear, says: “Plastic is definitely at the forefront of eyewear design, though combination frames are increasingly popular, such as those featuring a plastic hood and metal lower rim.”

The beauty of plastic frames is that they allow eyewear designers to create frames in the widest choice of colours, or layers of colours called laminates.

There are many types of plastic materials available, from nylon-based plastics that are hypoallergenic, to materials for sports eyewear, such as grilamid, that are extremely robust, flexible and heat-resistant.

Many eyewear manufacturers have patented materials to be used only in their designs. For example, Austrian eyewear manufacturer Silhouette, famed for its high-end rimless frames that are 80 per cent handcrafted, utilises a proprietary memory-shape material called SPX (Silhouette Polyamide X) that lends its frames their renowned flexibility, comfort and elasticity.

What designers love most about working with plastic is that it gives them greater freedom of creativity

What designers love most about working with plastic, however, is that it gives them greater freedom of creativity. It was precisely this which led to the recent launch of two new collections, made entirely from acrylic, by eyewear purveyor to the stars Kirk Originals.

Kirk’s Beam frames and Sunbeam sunglasses are hand-made in France from start to finish, and the acrylic is polished so the frames shine like glass.

Designer Jason Kirk says: “Beam and Sunbeam feature a specially developed acrylic that has enough flexibility to glaze with prescription lenses. Acrylic is incredibly light to wear so that gives the opportunity to wear large chunky frames without excessive weight, a particular advantage if you have a strong prescription. Another fantastic benefit of acrylic is that we have a palate of colours that is not normally found in eyewear.”

Whatever frame material you choose, be sure to ask your optician’s advice about comfort and durability; they often know a little about style too.

DRIVING

Intelligent lenses for motorists

Innovative glasses capable of sensing and reacting to changing light conditions can make driving more comfortable – and safer.

Named Lens Product of the Year at the 2011 Optician magazine awards, Drivewear is an intelligent (adaptive) prescription polarised photochromic sunglasses lens for drivers that adjusts to light and cuts glare behind the car windscreen. Uniquely, Drivewear lenses react to both UV and visible light.

In low daylight conditions, Drivewear lenses have a high contrast olive-green colour to maximise useful light information reaching the eye. In average sunlight conditions, the lenses turn a copper colour to remove excess light and provide good traffic signal recognition, highlighting the reds and greens. In bright sunshine, the lenses reach a deep-brown to maximise filtration of excess light.

Whatever brand you choose, an anti-reflective lens coating is recommended for night driving. Unlike sunglasses or self-darkening lenses, these actually transmit more light – about 8 per cent more.