The latest “it” item wasn’t on the runways in New York, Paris or Milan this past month. It was in the streets — and it’s only an “it” item because Black folks made it so.
While luxury brand Loewe debuted its spring/summer 2023 collection during Paris Fashion Week, the streets were ablaze with the recently released inflated cat-eye sunglasses from the brand’s fall 2022 collection.
Content creator Pierrah Hilaire, speaking from Milan Fashion Week, said she doesn’t usually buy into anything too trendy given how fast trend cycles move on TikTok.
“I was really surprised when I finally decided to make the purchase a few months into the hype that it was going to be popular. But I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not going to see a lot of people wear it.’ Because maybe that was just people who came to visit New York and left,” she said. “I think if it was maybe non-Black people I wouldn’t know how to feel. But I loved seeing Black creators wearing the shades.”
It reminded Hilaire of the early days of Telfar and seeing Black folks with the brand’s signature shopping bags.
“It felt like the first wave of Telfar when you first saw us wearing it,” she said. “The community is like, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re wearing it well.’ So it felt like I’m a part of this close-knit Loewe community.”
Content creator Armiel Chandler says accessories were the gateway to developing his personal style, a gumbo of fashion journalist André Leon Talley, designer Jeremy Scott, and artist Andy Warhol.
“Accessories opened the door for me when it comes to fashion because growing up a lot of things weren’t as accessible to me being plus-size,” Chandler said. “When I get dressed, I normally think about a shoe, or some glasses, or how I want to pair an outfit based around that, rather than a full fit. Then the full fit comes together.”
Chandler attended New York Fashion Week as a brand ambassador for After Pay, a digital payment platform and a sponsor of fashion week.
“They sponsored my outfits, so pretty much everything that I wore was pretty much what they covered and bought for me,” Chandler said.
Except for the Loewe inflated rectangle glasses.
“The glasses I bought myself,” he confirmed. “When I went into the store I was, like, these are cool. I wanted to see if I could create an outfit centered around that. When it comes to New York street style, a lot of people want to see color.”
Chandler is attracted to pieces he considers “showstoppers.” The Loewe rectangle and cat-eye glasses are just that to him. He says he now has three pairs and “I’m probably going to buy more.”
The glasses are becoming popular even as they help purchasers stay true to their personal style — a trend that Beth Goldstein, fashion accessories analyst at The NPD Group, attributes to the viral nature of fashion.
“Social media allows trends to develop and spread much more quickly than in the past,” she said. “But it also promotes individualism – take a brand or item that is particularly hot and make it your own, and then show your friends how you’ve done that. Either with color, material, pattern, or what other clothing or accessories it is being paired with.
“When times are tough, if you have to cut back on buying the big things, it can be fulfilling to do a little retail therapy and treat yourself to something more affordable,” Goldstein said. “Sunglasses in particular are an entry-level designer purchase.”
As the world tries to acclimate to what life looks like as we slowly emerge from pandemic lockdowns, Goldstein said, personal style is a focal point.
“It’s been a hard few years, we’ve essentially had to keep ourselves hidden,” she said. “So now that we have emerged, consumers are gravitating to whimsical footwear, handbags, and accessories in order to express themselves.
“Footwear soles keep getting thicker, and jewelry keeps getting bigger, so these and other sunglasses are following suit,” Goldstein said. “But what I think is interesting about this particular style is that while they definitely make a bold statement, it’s also a bit reserved in a way. Like the wearer is skeptical about what’s going on in the world and is choosing to stay partially hidden behind the large frames and narrow lenses.”
Given the general state of the world, shielding yourself behind a pair of Loewe sunglasses doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
Tulie Yaito, a co-designer behind the fashion brand Yaito, was shocked that she went viral after posting a photo of herself on Instagram wearing three pairs of Loewe inflated cat-eye sunglasses in red, yellow, and blue stacked on her head.
“I did anticipate it would make a statement, given the fact that I wore all three shades at the same time,” she said. “However, I did not know it would go viral the way it did. I saw these shades sometime last year, and was like, ‘Oh, my God, I have to get these shades.’ They were so cool.
“I love how the current creative director J.W. Anderson incorporates his personal style into the brand, but still staying true to Loewe’s Spanish heritage,” said Yaito. “He’s very quirky, and is very fun. I basically love all the shades they drop. It’s always so cool.”
When the glasses became available in August, there were limited amounts of each color, so she had to go to a few different stores. At the Loewe store in Soho in New York, she says, she bought the last pair.
Once she secured the colors she wanted, she posted her haul on Instagram.
Rayne Schloss, the New York-based creator of fashion brand Only Made and a social media manager for a women’s fashion brand, said she’s also “a huge Jonathan Anderson fan … He’s one of the biggest talents we have in fashion right now.”
Schloss loves that Anderson is able to honor the brand’s history as a leather manufacturer but still make it relevant.
The brand (pronounced “lo-WEH-vay”) was founded in Madrid as a leather goods company in 1846, making it the oldest brand on luxury conglomerate LVMH’s roster. But until Anderson joined in 2013, Loewe was regarded as a dull underperformer. Now, it’s worth $1 billion.
“I’ll be honest, before him I didn’t really pay attention to Loewe,” Schloss said. “It’s really refreshing to see that because I feel like the last time we saw somebody take over a really old house and it’s where it was a game changer, right?”
The brand is especially popular for its accessories, including leather elephant bags and puzzle bags. And Loewe’s Ibiza geometric oval sunglasses are still going strong, three years after their debut.
But it’s Anderson’s take on surrealism that really gets people going. The brand’s spring 2022 collection included slide-on strappy sandals with a rose, a broken egg, a bottle of nail polish, and even a bar of soap in place of a heel.
“It’s like they’re leaning into unconventional shapes, a balloon or the animal and really making it a statement piece, whether it be on the garment itself or an accessory,” Hilaire said. “So, I like how they’re leaning into the kitschy, artsy vibe. It still is sophisticated enough where it doesn’t look silly.”
Schloss likened Anderson’s work to the effect designer Phoebe Philo had at luxury fashion house Celine, so much so that when Philo left Celine, there was a clamor for her pieces.
“When Jonathan Anderson leaves Loewe, you’re going to see that same thing of people looking for this era of Loewe because it’s really interesting, really beautiful,” said Schloss.
She credits someone she follows with tweeting images of the sunglasses before they hit stores. When the glasses became available in August, Schloss had to have them immediately.
“Literally, I think they might have been in store for maybe a week or two when I got mine,” she said. “I’m seeing them everywhere and usually that would annoy me, but I honestly don’t care because I love it. For the most part, the women that I’ve seen wearing them are killing it and really good.”
The sunglasses are available on the Loewe website in red, blue, yellow, gray and black for $360. Besides the cat-eye style, Loewe makes both an inflated rectangle and mask style.
Schloss said she almost wanted to purchase the glasses in another color besides her red pair because they are so well made. The glasses are substantial weightwise.
“I was shocked by that because I can tell they’re not cheap. It’s funny because pricewise too, they’re still expensive. But I think on the scale of luxury sunglasses, they’re still a good price, because I have a pair of Prada sunglasses that were almost twice that price.”
She said she’ll still be wearing the glasses even when the hype dies down.
“I’m obviously not going to be like, ‘Oh, no, it’s over.’ It’s not going to be over for me. They just work with too many outfits. I’m like, ‘No, these are a really good solid pair of sunglasses to have.’ ”