New BusinessWeek Article States Oakley Sees Success Ahead for New Luxury Items

According to the article, a team of five designers and engineers was given complete financial and creative freedom by Oakley to pursue breakthroughs in materials and manufacturing processes that could propel sales of luxury items, shape the design of less expensive product lines, and most important, reinforce the brand’s progressive image. “This is the foundation of our success,” declares Oakley Chief Executive Colin Baden. The result is Oakley’s Elite collection, aimed for the luxury market.

The lineup’s focal point is a line of sunglasses that have frames composed of 80 layers of carbon fiber and a folding mechanism that mimics the way an armadillo closes its shell. The C Six glasses are tough yet flexible and meant to appeal to the company’s athletic, high-performance customers. Only 250 pairs were made. They sell for a whopping $4,000 each.

Some might say the timing is bad with the economy being what it is and consumer’s reluctant to spend. Oakley bucks that notion. A decade ago, for example, it took the company less than a year to sell 100 special-edition solid-gold watches for $23,000 each. Granted, people were flush with dot-com riches then, but Baden says the sales reflect a customer base willing to spend big bucks on Oakley’s higher-end products.