From Benigni to Belushi - sunglasses are the epitome of cool. We go to Milan for MIDO - the international eyewear show - and discover all the latest trends in shades.
Sunglasses are no longer confined to summer and beachwear. The coolest dudes wear their shades on the slopes and serious clubbers don their dancing frames before hitting the floor.
The season's trendiest models are minimalist, wrap and rimless. Not your style? Don't worry, there's something for everyone. Retro? Go for Gucci. Futuristic? Check out Chanel, D&G, and Bulgari's high-tech collections. Groovy? Choose Valentino and Roberto Cavalli with their rhinestone and snakeskin frames. The keywords this season are colour and pattern - and lots of them, from geometric styles, to classic combinations to funkier frames like these ones from Chloé.
Italy is the world leader in designer sunglasses - with eyewear industry profits totalling ITL 3, 000 billion, half of which comes from the export market.
However if you think that design houses such as Gucci, Armani and Valentino produce their own eyewear collections then it's time to think again. Most of the leading brands are manufactured by an élite few highly specialised companies which produce both designer ranges and own-name brands. The province of Belluno is home to a number of these including Luxottica, one of the market leaders. Leonardo Del Vecchio's company has been quoted on the New York Stock Exchange since January 23rd 1990 and boasting brands such as Sferoflex and Ray-Ban, as well as designer ranges for Chanel, Byblos and Armani ( the latter is the choice of Italian beauties Sofia Loren and Maria Grazia Cucinotta), has a strong position at the top end of the market.
Fendi and Egon von Furstenberg place their trust in De Rigo, who also produce their own brand Lozza, and, thanks to a new deal, also produce high-quality lenses for Prada. Down the road in Cadore is another company, Safilo, which works with the likes of Gucci, Dior and Pierre Cardin and can count celebrities such as Lenny Kravitz and Austrian skier Hermann Maier among its fans.
And, speaking of Austria, this year's Design Award 2001, the Oscars of the eyewear world, were won by the Austrian company Silhouette for its titanium-framed glasses. A reminder that there's more to eyewear than designer names.