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Silmo: vive la difference: a new venue and new launches, but with some familiar Gallic travel difficulties--these were some of the characteristics of Paris's Silmo show this year. David Challinor experienced the event.

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SILMO DID well to manage its massive change from its previous venue, the homely Porte de Versailles, to its new out-of-town site near Charles De Gaulle airport.

However, opinions on the new place, the Paris Nord Villepinte, were divided though those less-impressed, who called the new showgrounds 'sterile' and lacking in character, wished to take their opinion no further than distain.

Nostalgia for the old Silmo apart, the new show successfully fended off a still uncertain global economy and the now-familiar transport problems closer to its home.

In total 33,065 visitors attended, 4% up on last year's show, with organised pleased with an increase of overseas visitors by 14%.

Nevertheless, the absentees from the home market were noticeable, particularly on the Saturday morning of the show which has traditionally seen more French visitors, some of them bringing their families.

The numbers of Gallic visitors did indeed fall 6% this year. Maybe many of them knew about the difficulties getting to the venue that visitors experienced on the opening Thursday of the exhibition (the M6tro was closed due to a strike and flights to Paris were also disrupted), and the Saturday and Sunday of the show which were hit by more trouble on the public transport system (engineering works forced those heading towards the Paris Nord Villepinte by rail to endure what was a near-hour long return coach journey to the nearest operating station).

However, many exhibitors who attended the show had a profitable time, especially as those visitors present perhaps valued their time at the event even more, having travelled out of Paris to attend.

British exhibitor Jason Kirk, managing director of Silmo D'Or-nominated Kirk Originals, was one of those enthusing about the new showgrounds.

"Visitors have travelled out here for a reason," he said, "to do business, and, in truth, the old place [Porte de Versailles] was looking a bit tired.

"We've had two brilliant opening days--with the strike on the Metro we thought it would be really quiet. But no, we've been happy and seen a lot of contacts."

He launched Kirk's Kinetic Collection (OT Industry News, September 17), with frames that have animated moving panels.

"The frames have a 3D-type effect," he said. "The range is a tongue-in-cheek, retro look."

Mr Kirk added that the business is opening a flagship store in central London next month after the franchise on the Covent Garden outlet ended (the franchisee of that store, S6amus McClintock, has opened his own store at the Covent Garden site) and has ambitious plans to expand into retailing further (see this week's news).

"We wanted to take more control over our brand image," Mr Kirk said, revealing that the new store will carry out eye examinations for the first time in a Kirk Originals outlet. "It's an exciting time for us."

Marchon Eyewear's senior vice president of global communications and advertising Robert Schienberg revealed that the Lacoste brand of eyewear is to be reintroduced to the worldwide optics market through the massive eyewear manufacturing and distributing company, and the business is selling in the range now with delivery from January.

"Lacoste ended its relationship with Charmont and came to us," he said. "We're very fashion-led, communicating to fashion retailers, and Lacoste's brand has grown significantly as a presence in the fashion world."

The stand also highlighted 3D sunglasses from Marchon3D, and the company promised that a range of future items would be developed in 3D, not just for watching TV.

"Our 3D eyewear will be there not just for entertainment but for everyday use and to enhance your vision and the information you receive," said Mr Schienberg, who claimed that a wide range of labelling and products would include 3D technology in future.

At Silmo the Californian-based company was finalising plans to show more 3D eyewear at last week's Vision Expo West show in Las Vegas.

Another US company highlighting new technology was Pixel Optics, which displayed its emPower! electronic eyewear at its French distributors stand (Norville is in line to distribute the range when it arrives in the UK in late 2011).

Clay Musslewhite, Pixel's director of marketing said that emPower! is the world's first electronic focusing eyeglasses. "It will give patients the ability to turn on and off the near power in their lens, enabling the user to have the vision they want, when they want it." An exclusive interview with Mr Musslewhite is available on our web TV channel at www.optometry. co.uk

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The Virginia based business also highlighted its 'ultra thin' lens, Behold! and its composite lens at Last!

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Fresh from its success at last month's London Design Week, Denmark business Orgreen presented its special edition Kobenhavn sunglasses range. Orgreen's Catherine Lee, PR and communications manager, showed off the company's new collections at a packed and busy stand in Hall 5.

"We've had a good show," she said on Silmo's second afternoon, "it's been non-stop." The business has joined forces with furniture brand Republic of Fritz Hansen to produce a series of chairs designed by the respected Danish architect Arne Jacobsen Swan that feature the same Copenhagen skyline design as the special edition collection of eyewear by the Scandinavian company.

Back to the British contingent and Brulimar's managing director Howard Librae continues to be 'estatic' at the reaction his business had received to the Pineapple eyewear brand collection since its launch in August. He was at the show presenting this and other fashion brands at his stand in Hall 6.

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"Bench and Lee Cooper are fashion brands we have which are doing very well. We've brought Pineapple here to Europe really just to see [the reaction]...we know the Sky TV programme about the dance studio is being sold into many countries in Europe as well as Canada and New Zealand.

"Pineapple's brand is somewhat unique--normally the most successful brands in this sense are clothing-led. Pineapple has more of a cult status following, with its feminine look, and we were interested in taking it on before the television series took off. However, with the interest that the television show has generated we know now that we have 'a tiger by the tail' here."

Mr Librae revealed that business in the UK remained tough but opportunities remained--"the public want value for money and the biggest bang they can get for their buck". Another British exhibitor, Peter Beaumont, director at Dunelm Optical, said at the close of the show: "While this year's Silmo exhibition was perhaps quieter than in recent years, we have been thrilled to secure two new international accounts based in Hungary and Finland.

"Our designer ranges were received with great acclaim, with Paul Costelloe exhibiting 10 new pieces. The European market continues to be challenging, so the spotlight is inevitably on more cost-effective frames. Dunelm is well-placed to meet demand for affordable designer frames, with ranges like Janet Reger, John Rocha and Paul Costelloe."

Next year's show will take place on September 15-18.
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Title Annotation:EVENTS
Author:Challinor, David
Publication:Optometry Today
Article Type:Conference news
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Oct 15, 2010
Words:1164
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