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20/20 Story: The Vegas Buy

Walking the convention floor of Vision Expo West in Las Vegas, drowning in signage from every imaginable aspect of the optical industry, a wave of dizziness overcomes me.  Hitting me like a runaway Pullman Porter with the realization that this year marks my 20th anniversary working in the eye care industry.  Could that really be correct?  I think back to my first job with Au Courant Opticians in Ann Arbor in 1993 confirming the passage of two decades. This is one of the revelatory moments in life that we all inevitably have.  When reality bowls you over like a megaton train roaring full speed ahead on the only track available to you.  Contact is eminent.

Rolling the film in my mind of the last 20 years, each frame blurs into the next beginning with my first years working as an optician.  A few short years later I move to Chicago in search of more experience and better opportunity.  The time I spent as a frame rep traveling the Midwest. Meeting and eventually working with Dr. Michael Ciszek, which lead to me joining the Visionary Eye Care team. The late hours spent in the lab cutting lenses, planning trunk shows and purchasing product for our patients to peruse all seems like one long dream. There have been multiple office renovations, 3 anniversary parties, and more than tripling in staff. How quickly time flies when you truly love what you do and now, in Las Vegas at my umpteenth Vision Expo, I’m still at it!  I’m jarred back to reality by the blaring music filling the convention center emanating from the massive Luxottica booth. I regain my focus and continue on.

My first inclination is to walk through the Expo to see what catches my eye before heading to my scheduled appointments with my current vendors. A practice I’ve done many times before.  I begin walking through the countless aisles as a pattern slowly begins to emerge.  Many vendors have displayed product that I think I’ve seen before.  I first shrug it off as me just needing a cup of Joe for fuel to get my head clear, thinking that I’m suffering from what I refer to as “frame brain”.  As a buyer, you are bombarded with so many frames from the time you step foot in a Vision Expo’s host city until your last day in a taxi on the way to the airport with videos advertising what’s hot at the Expo.  It’s inescapable.  Your mind begins melding one frame into another making it difficult to distinguish one style from the next, complicating your job even further.  I take a deep breath, down an espresso and get to the job at hand.  Finding and purchasing product that not only fit our clientele but is also on or ahead of trends.  All of which is extremely important to the success of stocking the offices with great, unique product that we’re known to have.

I have an overwhelming sense of familiarity with the products displayed. Large shapes with muted colors adorns booth after booth.  The trend is clear.  Big is still in however big and bold maybe not so much and everyone seems to be on the same page.  It is a trend that began last fall that’s held until now. Designs reminiscent of the 80’s and early 90’s.  The main difference is that the cartoonish colors of years past have been replaced with sleek matte finishes with cool earth tones.  I think of my personal eyewear collection and specifically of some of my favorite styles that I’ve held on to for one reason or another and realize that they are now current again.  Not in a retro-way but in a real wearable fashion forward way. Gone are the styles of recent that shrank to the sizes of miniature eyewear that seemingly disappeared from one’s face.  It’s been said that what’s old will be new again.  This year’s release from many designers has given great credence to that testament!

I spend the next 4 days selecting the product for the fall and winter and realize how eye wear trends like many things in life have a pattern of repeating.  The 20 years I’ve spent working in this industry began with a passion for helping people see by way of working as an optician assisting the doctors, educating patients on eye care and seeking to expand my knowledge of the industry.  Two decades later I find myself with different responsibilities though still working at the same goals. Looking back for inspiration to help guide me to the next step adapting my goals for the present, just as designers have reached back to influence the designs for the current trends.  All in all, what’s old never truly is and though 20 years may have passed, I need only to wait for the shipments of new product to arrive to see what going full circle truly means.

Jamar Holloway
Director of Operations