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Triple Vision

Designers eyeball the market for 3-D glasses

Illustration by Kristen Ulve

Erika Meyers, a college student who lives in West Hollywood, owns more than 100 pairs of fashion eyewear ranging from bug-eyed Balenciagas to candy-colored “cheapies” from a 99 Cents Only store. But the 24-year-old is especially enthusiastic about her newest pair: squarish Armani Exchange frames in black with smoky lenses that she bought online for $58. The multilayered mirrored coatings on the lenses give the illusion of depth of field to projected or broadcast 3-D imagery. “I just bought a 3-D TV, and I would never wear those ugly movie theater glasses,” Meyers says. True, there’s not much 3-D to watch at present—ESPN offers it, and Comcast will soon launch a channel devoted to it. But the slew of 3-D video games and movies scheduled for release this year, including a Martin Scorsese period piece, Hugo Cabret, points to 3-D going from nerdy specialty to mainstream fare.

We’ve come a long way from the paper-frame red-and-blue throwaways viewers donned for horror films like House of Wax. In the year and a half since audiences were loaned clunky accessories by cinemas showing Avatar—remember having to check them back in on bathroom breaks?—fashion firms have jumped in to fill a void. Lacoste, Nike, Nautica, and CK released personal high-tech specs this spring for less than $200 apiece. Gucci and Oakley started off the trend late last year. Each company put its stylistic stamp on the frames—Gucci with its signature red-and-green stripe ($225), Oakley in the wraparound shape popular in action sports ($120). “Doing a 3-D program was a logical step, what with the explosion of 3-D right now,” says Patrick Doddy, brand director for Armani Exchange.

Sony and LG make glasses that communicate wirelessly with 3-D televisions. But they don’t have the looks—or the logos—some consumers crave. Still, tech products almost always go down in price over time. Marchon, a company that provides 3-D lenses for several high-end labels, just released its own $30 versions. “It’s designer looks without the designer price,” says Trey Ditto, a Marchon representative. Maybe the early upper-echelon 3-Ds will wind up as collectors’ items on par with their red-and-blue predecessors.