SILMO Paris: 56 years of passion

Published on by Lea Carpentier - updated on

2022, the era of renewal

After a period linked to the COVID-19, the optical sector persists in its development. Ever more technical, the optical industry is fashionable, committed, and still has many secrets to reveal to you

2017 – The dawn of a new era

50 years of passion, Silmo Paris is the world's number 1 optical show.

2014 – New horizons

The organisers of SILMO created strategic offshoots abroad to be close to opticians and open up new markets with major economic potential.

2011 – Trends go digital

In addition to the trend  forum,  2011  saw  SILMO  publish  its first digital magazine on its website. TRENDS by SILMO was published three times a year – before, during and after the trade fair – and put into perspective product and brand news and trends, and also offered analysis of the international optics and eyewear market.

2010 – Science gets involved

SILMO created an academy, a high-level discussion forum for the optics and eyewear industry; because opticians need to enhance their knowledge of vision and optics to effectively meet their clients’ visual needs. The academy had two component parts. A colloquium facilitated by the world’s most renowned specialists was open to all opticians wishing to increase their expertise and find out about the medical and social developments of the time.

In addition to Silmo Academy, a poster exhibition showcased written presentations by anyone wishing to display their work on vision or optics. These posters could be viewed by visitors throughout the fair.

2009 – Sales outlets come to life

In 2009, SILMO wanted to develop the services dimension of the trade fair for both exhibitors and visitors alike, so a new merchandising and store sales promotion space was created to increase footfall, optimize and foster loyalty. This merchandising workshop tackled sales fundamentals (optimizing store layout and sales promotion) and was aimed at opticians, offering a bespoke service and answering all the main merchandising questions they were asking themselves.

The workshop was located in an open area at the heart of the trade fair and was dynamically and clearly laid out. Opticians had the opportunity to chat with window dressers, merchandising professionals and sales coaches.

2004 – A comprehensive offer

Bolstered by a broad-based offer covering frames, lenses, equipment and services for opticians, in 2004 SILMO created a store layout area dedicated to chains and groupings of opticians. The aim was to meet all of their expectations and needs with a comprehensive offer.

1997 – Vision for everyone

Low vision, also known as partial sight, a moderate or severe visual impairment, is a real public health challenge affecting approximately 285 million people worldwide according to the WHO. SILMO sought to address the issue in 1997 in order to raise the awareness of industry professionals in its Low Vision area devoted to visual impairments and their impact. The professionals met with specialists who offered information and suggested solutions via a fun multi-sensory pathway designed to “change the way sighted people see people with sight loss.”

1996 - A new generation of designers

At the dawn of the new millennium, the optics and eyewear sector was dynamic with the emergence of new ‘small’ companies run by designers seeking to make a name for themselves, young eyewear manufacturers and aspiring brands. They gave fresh impetus to the sector and a breath of invigorating creative energy. SILMO made room for them alongside their elders, creating a real village square, bringing them together in a resolutely positive ambience.

This village was unique in the optics and eyewear sector and expanded over the years to the point of becoming a sprawling town with several dozen exhibitors. These brands and businesses are now part of the mainstream industry and some have become the best in the sector. Newcomers with a start-up ethos continued to flock to the fair but SILMO decided to change the segmentation of the trade fair to facilitate access to the offering and make the industry more coherent by decompartmentalizing the spaces. SILMO is an indivisible whole where each exhibitor has and will have their place within the confines of large product families: frames, lenses, instruments and equipment for opticians, store equipment, services.

1994 – Celebrating talent

The International Awards for Technology and Fashion, better known as the Silmo d’Or awards, honour technological innovations and the most creatively dynamic companies. Over the years, the Silmo d’Or Awards have become a benchmark and a leading event, providing a preview of the immediate future in the worlds of lenses, frames and equipment.

The participating companies come from across the globe and attend the fair. They submit products that must fall into one of ten categories and are appraised by a judging panel made up of technical and academic experts from the healthcare, optics and eyewear, fashion and design industries. The categories are: Optical Frames, Equipment, Lenses, Low Vision… To date, 275 companies have received Silmo d’Or awards.

The Silmo d’Or awards ceremony has also been the opportunity for a big celebration at one of Paris’ symbolic landmarks, including the Opéra Garnier, Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, Château de Versailles, Musée des Arts Forains, Pont Alexandre III, Pré Catelan, Cité du Cinéma, Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace… The awards night connects the trade fair to France’s vibrant capital city.

1985 – Trends enlighten the market

SILMO exceeded its objectives three-fold with over 350 exhibitors and 14,000 buyers of whom 3,850 came from outside France! In response to the growing number of brands and collections, the trade fair offered an original ‘insight’ when it unveiled its very first trend forum. This space remains truly stunning and has evolved year after year both in its design and content, combining fashion trends and social styles, accompanied by a selection of optical frames and sunglasses. These forums are still proving very useful to today’s visitors and are a true source of information in three dimensions. SILMO is considered to be a talent finder and a market analyser.

1984 – The optics and eyewear sector’s new rhythm

Competition increased between the major European trade fairs (MIDO in Italy, Interoptic and Optrafair in the UK, and Optica in Germany), so the organisers of SILMO decided to reinvigorate the sector by holding their trade fair in autumn, making for a balanced calendar of shows held between spring and autumn. The French trade fair was permanently moved to this more productive time of year. This decision was rubberstamped by industry professionals who adopted the new rhythm and took advantage of SILMO to launch new brands, collections and innovations.

And to further cement the decision, SILMO 1984 staged a Lunettes Show. Trailblazing technology was joined by trailblazing fashion on a big podium in the centre of the fair.

1976 – The general public gets to see behind the scenes

SILMO 1976 was held in Paris on 20-24 May and was a first for an industry trade fair, as it was open to the general public. Edgar Faure, who at the time was President of France’s National Assembly, opened the fair and said that opening up to the public was a praiseworthy initiative, as it allowed “Mr and Mrs Average” to get to know a dynamic sector of the economy.

Saturday 22 May saw a large crowd of curious visitors thronging the aisles to discover the products showcased by the 300 exhibitors, appreciate a unique retrospective of rare and historic artefacts (10 centuries of eyewear and optical instruments) and, in some cases, actually become opticians! As a matter of fact, the organisers had created a unique area dedicated to optics training institutions and teaching the opticians of the future.

1971 – Fashion in the line of sight

As the eyewear manufacturers’ trade fair, in 1967 SILMO held the first “glasses fashion show”, grasping the importance of fashion from very early on. Fashion is a cultural reflection of society and the 1960s saw a liberated style influenced by rock and a generation of designers looking to start afresh. While haute couture set the tone for a formal bourgeois style, young designers were focusing on more democratic and less restrictive ready-to-wear clothes. SILMO 1971 witnessed the arrival of great breakaway designers such as Christian Dior, Louis Féraud, Paco Rabanne, Pierre Cardin and Ted Lapidus, who had a passion for glasses, as both sunglasses and prescription glasses were a vital accessory. The market exploded at this time: for French manufacturers alone, turnover rose by 210% and exports by 284% to over 450 million francs between 1962 and 1970!

Over the years, SILMO’s organisers increased the number of events. Glasses fashion shows started in 1967 and the trend forum was born in 1985 to be in tune with a period when fashion went down onto the streets and became more accessible.

50 years of evolution and revolution

As a major international optics and eyewear  industry  event, SILMO has established  itself  because  of  its  positioning  based on three areas - fashion, technology and health – breaking into new markets, promoting innovation and design, and by having a forward-looking approach so as to keep in step with changes to consumption patterns and technological developments.

SILMO has stood the test of time without aging in the slightest! On the contrary, the trade fair demonstrates the strength of its commitments, its uniqueness and its ability to be at the centre of the international markets. This has been achieved despite the economic vicissitudes that have punctuated its long history. SILMO remains a leading business platform for exhibiting and for promoting design and innovation, a focal point for talent and know-how with a wide range of products on display, bringing together frames, lenses and optical equipment, layout for retail outlets, services, chains, purchasing departments etc. SILMO is in sync with the global optics and eyewear industry and remains the major event of the autumn. Let’s now take a look back at the key dates which have marked its history and the industry’s history too.

Birth of a giant

Maurice Jacquiot, the president of SILMO and of the Union des Syndicats de Fabricants de Lunetterie (UNSFL – Federation of Eyewear Manufacturers’ Trade Unions), said, “in 1967, when the very first Eyewear Trade Fair was organized in Oyonnax at the International Plastics Trade Fair, nobody – exhibitors or visitors for that matter – would have been able to predict the destiny of this event, which is totally unique, as it is the only specialized trade fair in the eyewear sector.”

As of 1953, as part of the International Plastics Trade Fair (SIP), 26 eyewear manufacturers from Oyonnax started exhibiting on a shared stand under the auspices of the Eyewear Section of the Oyonnax Trade Association of Manufacturers of Plastic Goods.

Bolstered by a glasses market that began developing  in  the 1960s, this embryonic ‘trade fair’ took off,  bringing  together frame manufacturers from Paris and Morez, foreign manufac- turers and lens producers. In total, 70 exhibitors came together in a brand new 1,500m² exhibition hall. Three years later, more space was needed and a second hall was built to house 172 exhibitors of whom 109 were French and 63 from 14 different countries ( Germany, Italy, Brazil, Switzerland, US, Japan, Bel- gium, Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, UK, Austria and Israel): the International Eyewear Trade Fair was born.

SIP did not take place in 1970 because Europlastique was being held in Paris. The eyewear manufacturers took matters into their own hands and called their own trade fair SILMO (standing for Salon International de la Lunetterie, de l’Optique Oculaire et du Matériel pour Opticiens in French) with the aim of bringing together all the industry’s players. Maurice Jacquiot remembers a “real SILMO generation, with the SILMO acronym now being known worldwide”, which brings together eyewear manufacturers and optics professionals from across the world.

The optics and eyewear sector then experienced amazing growth, with two new industry trade fairs opening their doors in 1970 – MIDO in Milan on 14-15 May, and INTEROPTIC in London on 27-29 June.

As of 1972, SILMO alternated between Oyonnax and Paris (the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Centre), being held in its traditional heartlands for three consecutive years and then taking place in Paris the subsequent year. The aim was to conserve the fair’s regional roots while more effectively establishing it on the international stage. However, the to-ing and fro-ing came to an end in 1981 when the trade fair moved permanently to the French capital. The organisers of the French trade fair decided to hold it in October to avoid clashing with the other European trade fairs held in May and June. SILMO continues to be held in the autumn and has become the only European optics trade fair at that time of year.

SILMO further cemented its positioning in 2010 when it moved to a more practical exhibition centre at Paris Nord Villepinte, enabling the exhibition space to be optimally managed and making the fair a more pleasant experience for exhibitors and visitors alike. Nowadays, with a thousand exhibitors and close to 35,000 visitors from across the globe, the World Optical Fair remains a flagship event for the whole global optics and eyewear industry.