The Line Break: Balch On Dragon ’12 Eyewear

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While many retailers are still reeling from a rough winter, rising temperatures mean one thing--it’s time to cut your losses and shift gears to summer product. From retro to futuristic, Dragon Alliance has you covered. Dragon has partnered with its surf team on a wide array of new frames and styles, as well as upgraded some of its classics with new colors and technologies for its tightest and techest line of shades ever. We caught up with their always-entertaining and insightful sunglasses product line manager, Hillary Balch, for a look at what this spring has in store.

What are the biggest changes we'll see in this year’s line? 

For the summer line, we're sprinkling in a few more colors as well as our new style, the Remix, based off of our number one selling style The Jam. We're looking forward to a strong summer building off our momentum we've had this season so far. Personally, this summer I'm really looking forward to the leopard print colorway we're releasing in the Remix and to finally getting a tan.

Dragon Alliance Sunglasses PLM with surf team riders Taylor Knox and Ace Buchan outside Jack’s in Huntington Beach, CA

What are your three favorite styles? Is that like asking you to pick your favorite kid? 

This is like asking me to pick my favorite kid. I love all of our styles so much. We spend so much time developing them, and then they finally go off into the real world and I'm sitting here hoping they make friends and play nice with all the other kids. Right now, my favorite styles are the new Viceroy, The Jam of course, and a new piece called the Regal that won't be dropping till later this year. But I'm special so I already have one.

The new Owen Wright looks really good - any good stories on working with Owen on this? 

Owen was so great to work with, he was so excited the whole time and really wanted to be involved in the colors and graphics. He worked closely with myself and our art director Dave on getting the cartoon graphics on the inside dialed and really getting the overall vibe across that Owen was going for - an underwater, sketchy deep sea vibe with sharks and creepy little fish. We were loving the teal color so we tied it into the metal plaque on the side as well as the lens.

What makes these stand out? 

Definitely the attention to detail on the inside graphics. Also, the pop of the teal color on the black frame is a nice surprise. The fact that it's Owen Wright's signature model doesn't hurt either.

Follow the jump for more looks, tips, and trends…

Dragon Global Brand Manager Rick Irons, Jr., Hillary Balch, and Founder/CEO Will Howard at SIA

What are you seeing as the biggest influences in eyewear right now?

The biggest influence for us right now is just focusing on what we're about as a brand and developing product that supports that. There will always be micro-trends that have influence on our line each season, but overall we want to make bad-ass sunglasses that stay true to the Dragon heritage. We're coming up on our 20-year anniversary, which makes me feel really old, so it's been a good time to reflect on what works for us and what has influenced the line over the years.

The Viceroy seems like a good example of the focus on vintage pieces in shades these days. Are you seeing that as a big trend across the line? 

The Viceroy is a classy, medium-sized, hand-made style that a lot of people have naturally gravitated towards. It's a great addition to the line and adds a more subtle and refined flavor. We wanted to take the vintage/hand-made vibe that's been prevalent for a few seasons and put our own Dragon spin on it, and out came the Viceroy. It's currently a favorite amongst our team guys and employees.

Evan Geiselman running the Viceroy

The Orbit is looking good. Tell us a bit more about mashing retro and futuristic. Wouldn't that balance to be current?

Stop asking such difficult questions (laughing). The Orbit is definitely more futuristic than retro, but there are clear retro influences from the 70's, and even the '80's that balance it out. It's as if you were to design a sunglass in the past based off of what you thought the future was going to look like. The Orbit was conceived based off the Domo, it's larger more aggressive counterpart. The Domo has been a phenomenon for us the past few years, so we wanted to follow up with a fresh version in a different size with slightly different lines and details.

Fanning's new Shield looks really solid - how involved was he on this?

Because the Shield was entirely based on Mick and was his signature frame, we wanted him as involved as possible. Many phone calls, emails, and meetings were had with Mick in order to get this frame right for Dragon, our customer, and most importantly for Mick himself. He was actually able to come into the office a lot during the process so we could sit down, go over the details, conduct fit tests, etc etc. Mick wanted a performance sunglass that really focused on the lenses and protecting you from the elements, and the Shield is the perfect result of that. Mick even named it himself. I think he's trying to steal my job.

Mick Fanning in The Shield.

The Shield features “Performance Polar” with “hydrophobic and oleophobic coatings.” That’s a mouthful. What does that mean for the consumer and how can retailers better explain and sell this technology? 

It means less fuss and wear and tear on your lenses, trying to always clean them. It's easy-clean technology. The hydrophobic coating repels water - so instead of the water spreading all over the lenses, it beads up and is easy to wipe away. The oleophobic coating repels oil, dust, and dirt - so think sand, sunscreen, grease from that burger you're eating - all easily wiped away. The coatings are on both sides of the lenses too, and topped with a super abrasion-resistant hard coating, so these lenses can withstand anything. It's important to educate our retailers on these features as they are huge selling points for their customers. Through specific POP, clinics, and lens demonstration kits we have our sales team armed and ready to fight the battle against standard polar lenses.

Alright, time to give retailers some insight on orders…What were your best selling styles last year? Do you expect an encore from these this summer? 

Definitely The Jam, Domo, Shield, and Fame. We are expecting all of these to maintain their momentum through the summer, but the Viceroy, Orbit, and Remix will definitely give them a run for their money for those top spots.

What colors do you expect to hit homeruns this summer? 

We've always strived to make the most unique and on-point colors across the board. Our new Palm Springs Pool Collection, based off of an actual team trip we took to Palm Springs, has had a great response so far. It's the perfect collection for the summer months hanging out poolside with a Mai Tai in your hand.

Are prices changing for this year?

Because we have streamlined and shifted all of our polar to Performance Polar, we were able to create a consistent polar pricing structure, so there were a few changes with that.