Iconic Sunglasses to Make a Marquee Return

Nov. 3, 2006 — -- The Ray-Ban Wayfarer was once the ultimate fashion accessory for those wanting to make a statement.

Whether trying to exude the elegance of Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," the karaoke cool of a young Tom Cruise in "Risky Business," or perhaps your more sinister side like Jack Nicholson's Joker in Batman, It was the status symbol that said it all and set the bar.

But does an item made hip by Hollywood necessarily become a must-have accessory for the masses? ABC News sought answers on the stylish streets of Manhattan.

Cynthia Leitner, looking spectacular in red-tinted sunglass frames and clutching a designer handbag, recounted: "I remember them when Audrey Hepburn wore them in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's.' They symbolized fashion, style, being with it."

Eighteen-year-old Kevin Wolff agreed. "They were cool...when I wore them they made me feel like I was my own celebrity."

A Heralded Return

Wayfarers became so popular in the late 1980's that knock-offs flooded the market. They could be found on street corners, gas stations, and drug stores.

In 1999, the Luxottica Group, now the world's biggest manufacturer of sunglasses bought the Ray-Ban brand from Bausch & Lomb.

In hopes of ridding the market of the lower quality shades, it halted production of the Wayfarers for six months.

Production restarted in early- to mid-2000 but Ray-Ban plans to relaunch the classic Wayfarer early next year. The company hopes to double Ray-Ban sales of 11.3 million pairs of glasses from 2005.

Vittorio Verdun, Luxottica's vice president of marketing explained, "I think there is a big demand today for the vintage and iconic styles. We've seen a big resurgence the past couple of years. The consumer has asked for it."

While women dominate the market on all sunglasses sales, more than 60 percent of Ray-Bans buyers have been men. To appeal to more women, Wayfarers will be released in colors and in a more feminine tortoise shell.

For Leitner, an early customer, it will be a walk down memory lane. "If I saw them in different colors and thought they were fun or interesting or could serve as a functional pair of sunglasses, I'd consider getting them."

And the marketing blitz will be on. Ray-Ban has a long standing relationship of placing products in Hollywood movies and the return of the Wayfarer will be no different.

Susan Klunt, a former expat who ABC News caught enjoying the day in Central Park, added: "Celebrities made them big and they [Ray-Bans] made them for the regular person."