Katherine Watson likes to feel as though she’s sitting in the lap of luxury.

The 32-year-old southern Ontario businesswoman owns several pairs of high-fashion prescription glasses and shades.

Each piece is by a premier brand – Tiffany & Co., Prada, Valentino and Tom Ford.

Watson says wearing luxury frames is a way to stand out from the crowd and send out a message.

“Honestly, they make me feel special,” she said. “They make a statement without me having to say anything at all. They say, I take care of myself, value myself, I’m important.”

Eyewear has come a long way from the days of being clunky essentials.

They can now be seen on virtually all major fashion runways.

Today, people can find fairly affordable frames that bear the same names as the designers that celebrities boast about wearing at movie premieres and award ceremonies – like Vera Wang, Versace, Giorgio Armani, Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld.

“Who doesn’t want to feel like a movie star?” says Mark Ginsberg, senior vice-president, global marketing for Marchon Eyewear.

“Luxury eyewear is sexy and glamorous, rich in material and design. It allows you an entry point into a brand that might otherwise be impossible to afford.”

Holly Rush, president of Luxottica Wholesale North America, agrees, saying luxury eyewear can fill an “aspirational desire” for consumers. “What may be unattainable to consumers in the handbag or fashion categories is within reach in eyewear and, consequently, consumers can own a statement piece from a luxury brand that they display prominently on their faces,” she said.

Luxottica’s extensive brand portfolio includes some of the top names on the planet.

Their licensed brands include Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Bvlgari, Chanel, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, DKNY, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Tiffany and Versace, while their proprietary brands include Ray-Ban, Oakley and Vogue.

Rush said the company works closely with its licence partners to capture the essence of each brand in the respective collection and to create “beautiful, long lasting and functional pieces” that complement each customers’ personal style.

“The design and quality of Luxottica’s products are world renowned,” she said.

“Painstaking craftsmanship by highly-skilled experts is a unique hallmark of our collections.

Crystals and other details are hand-applied, acetates are custom blended to the highest levels of colour quality and consistency, frames and components are milled and polished by hand and high-quality crystal lenses are used across our collections.”

Marchon also has an extensive brand portfolio that includes a list of top designer names, including Calvin Klein, Karl Lagerfeld, Sean John, Valentino and Salvatore Ferragamo as well as Lacoste and Nike.

“Our collections embody the inherent DNA of the respective brand. There’s no mistaking our eyewear collections, they are the very best of what the brand message has to convey,” said Ginsberg.

People who value design and craftsmanship purchase luxury eyewear, he said.

“They treat their frames no different than their favorite leather good or statement jewelry piece. It’s on your face so it says a lot about who you are. It’s a personal connection and sometimes an extension of one’s own’calling card,’” he said.

Fabrizio Gamberini, chief executive officer of Marcolin USA Eyewear Corp, said people who want to look fashionable at every moment of their life, including while on business and travelling, purchase luxury eyewear.

“The audience consists of brand lovers with an amazing passion for design, product, material, features and innovation,” he said.

When people purchase luxury eyewear, they feel closer to the brand in many ways, he added.

“Not only do you want to resemble the essence and the DNA of the brand, but you want to establish a true fashion statement for yourself,” he said.

He said Marcolin, which has a portfolio that includes Tom Ford, Guess, Swarovski and Kenneth Cole, also works very closely with the designers for their brands in all phases of production.

“We develop concepts and ideas together and verify them with key customers and salespeople as well as end users. We edit the concepts at the prototype stage with their feedback and finalize them for further review.

Not too many competitors are as rigorous about the product development phases as Marcolin is, which is one of the major reasons why we have so many unique products,” he said.

Mel Rapp, the owner of the Toronto-based Rapp Optical and Rapp Eyewear, said luxury eyewear appeals to customers who are not afraid to spend more money on their face “and, therefore, their identity.”

For Rapp, whose company designs and manufactures hand-finished, high-end eyewear, luxury is the “antithesis of the ordinary, common place items which are mass produced.”

He said Rapp Eyewear stands apart from the competition because it is made in Canada and because of its custom colour formulations, custom shapes and unique construction.

So, who buys luxury eyewear?

“Consumers who appreciate and understand good workmanship,” Rapp said. “Consumers who do not wish to look like everyone else.”