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Iconic: The Vuarnet Sunglasses

Originally destined for high-altitude resorts and adopted by city-dwelling fashionistas and celebrities, the French brand will open on July 14 its first U.S. boutique in the SoHo neighborhood of New York. Take a look back on this French success story.

In the late 1950s, French optician Roger Pouilloux teamed up with the skiing superstar of the day, Jean Vuarnet, to design a pair of ski goggles “capable of improving visibility, highlighting contrasts and enhancing depth perception on the slopes.” His Skilynx technology shot to fame three years later when Jean Vuarnet, equipped with the 02 model and its the renowned double gradient-tinted lenses, pointed his skis downhill at the starting blocks of the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, not far from Lake Tahoe. Flying down the slope in his now-famous “egg” position (fetal position), the Frenchman snatched the gold.

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The mineral glass lenses filtered 100% of ultraviolet rays while absorbing 98% of infrared rays, preventing reflected glare from the snow. When he arrived at the bottom, his eyewear was applauded almost as much as his sporting performance! This victory sealed the partnership between the optician and the athlete, who both signed a license agreement to market their eyewear under the skier’s name. With its slogan “It’s a Vuarnet day today,” the eyewear popularized by the new French skiing champion quickly became a global reference.

From the Slopes to the Red Carpet: Vuarnet Eyewear Hits the Silver Screen

The world of cinema took care of making the brand a chic French icon. While at the height of his sex appeal, Alain Delon wore them in the movie La Piscine alongside Romy Schneider, and made the 06 model a symbol of masculine elegance. The brand was at its peak in the United States during the 1980s, when it was chosen to be the official partner of the Los Angeles Olympics. It quickly became Ray Ban’s leading competitor by selling more than 1 million pairs in the U.S.A. Even the Kennedy family started wearing them!

The brand faded from memory for a period of time, before storming back onto the silver screen with the 03 model worn by the cult character “The Dude,” played by Jeff Bridges in the Cohen brothers’ 1998 movie The Big Lebowski. Jazz icon Miles Davis and rock star Mick Jagger also transformed the sunglasses into the coolest of accessories. But Vuarnet eyewear has always shone brightest on film. As well as his obligatory Aston Martin and top-end tuxedo, the inimitably sophisticated British spy, James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, also boasted a vintage-style pair of Glacier sunglasses by Vuarnet during a chase through the Austrian Alps in the 2015 movie Spectre.

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The recently relaunched brand now belongs to British investment fund Neo Investment Partners, but has stayed true to its production methods. Continuing to honor its fashion and cinema heritage, Vuarnet has also named French actor Vincent Cassel as its new ambassador. Featured at the 2015 Paris Men’s Fashion Week — a project between Vuarnet and Ami (Alexandre Mattiussi’s brand) and filmed by Loïc Prigent — the eyewear now includes creations by designers, such as Philippe Starck and his Starck Eyes model. In fall of the same year, Vuarnet rereleased the 06 model worn by Alain Delon in La Piscine for the American remake A Bigger Splash, starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson.

The brand is continuing its comeback strategy. It brought its production back to France: the lenses are crafted in Meaux (in the Seine-et-Marne département) and the frames in Arbent (in the Ain département). In the United States, it reopened a subsidiary, Vuarnet Inc., and inaugurated a few pop-up stores. Vuarnet will now open its first U.S. boutique in New York… on Bastille Day!


Vuarnet New York

39 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
www.vuarnet.com

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