Time was when shades used to be rounded and black - and meant to protect your eyes from the sun. But today they can come bejewelled with pearls, crystals, and many Indians are more than willing to burn a hole in their pocket for it !
The country's branded eyewear market has grown manifold in the past three to four years as luxury fast gains synonymity with urban lifestyles. From Ray-Ban to Prada to Bvlgari to Burberry to Versace to Vogue and Dolce & Gabbana, all the high-end names are here.
The Spring-Summer season collection 2009, to be launched worldwide by the end of 2008, will see about 350 styles from these brands in the range of Rs.2,000 to Rs.40,000 - a sign that India is an emerging market - though still trailing behind China.
"Sunglasses or shades have definitely grown from being a necessity to a luxury. While people used to wear them to protect their eyes only until a few years ago, now their choice of shades is more like an extension of their personality," Sudhanshu Arora, marketing manager, Ray-Ban Sun Optics India Private Limited, told IANS.
"Today people want separate pairs of shades for office, casual wear, party wear, beach wear and so on and this has given a major boost to the eyewear market."
While many Indian customers even now are under the impression that it would be economical to buy luxury brands from abroad, Arora says it is otherwise.
A regular pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses would cost anything starting from Rs.2,000, Vogue Rs.5,000, Versace Rs.10,000, Dolce & Gabbana at Rs.11,000, and Bvlgari Rs.13,000 respectively.
Except for the middle class and lower middle class societies, the price, Arora said, is not much of a "deciding factor in the purchase" of Indian clients. What matters most is the "style, fit and the brand", he said.
Arora said this was a result of a gradual change in trends in the accessories market. "It is not just eyewear, people are spending a lot on their bags, shoes, jewellery and for all this, they have become very brand conscious. So the branded eyewear market is emerging," he said.
A section of the public also has much more purchasing power. The high end brands target cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Though India's market is "emerging", that of China is 10 times bigger, says Paolo Ciarlariello, managing director of Luxottica Group India, which markets and distributes the high-end brands.
"China is bigger. In fact, the US, Europe and Japan are some of the biggest luxury markets in the world for us. But I am sure that within the next five to 10 years, things will be different in India. And with the people in Delhi and Mumbai getting increasingly brand conscious, I forecast a very bright future," Ciarlariello said.
Apart from witnessing an upsurge, the eyewear market is even observing a comeback of trends, especially those in the 1980s.
There was a time when shades used to be plain and simple rounded and black. But designers the world over are now using an avant garde approach to stylise sunglasses as large, round, square, bright, multicoloured and most prominently - bejewelled.
"The retro look is coming back and, as far as I can forecast, bejewelled frames - the ones with its temples encrusted with Swarovski and rhinestones - will be in," said Arora.
One such pair of shades is available in the Bvlgari special edition range and costs a whopping Rs.40,000. But for those wanting to see the world through luxury-tinted glasses, the prices may not count!