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BY DESIGN : The New Commodity: Trading Silver for Gold

August 18, 1994|WILLIAM KESSEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Just as Disney will pull "The Lion King" from theaters at the height of its popularity, Greg Arnette has yanked his company's best-selling sunglasses from store shelves.

The move was prompted by fears that the 1950s-style wrap-around, chrome-plated plastic shades--called Ravens--were becoming overexposed. The Beastie Boys wore them on the covers of Details and Vibe, Lenny Kravitz wore them on "MTV Unplugged," and Madonna wore them to a Laker game. Next thing you know, a face-lifted Mick Jagger might wear them to the Voodoo Lounge.

"We discontinued the chromes because we didn't want them to be played out," marketing director Chris Burke says. "We don't want to be an Oakley or a Ray-Ban. You lose a little bit of your coolness and your hipness if you get that big."

Arnette created the glasses 2 1/2 years ago as an alternative to high-tech black ski and snowboarding goggles. When top snowboarders Steve Graham, Brian Thien and Mike Ranquet donned Ravens, it seems everyone else did too. Since then, Arnette's San Clemente-based company, called Arnet (he dropped the "te" because it fouled up the company logo), has sold more than 4,000 pairs of the sleek $75 frames.

Arnette hasn't left his snowboarding Raven customers in an ultraviolet-ray lurch. A new variation in gold will be available at surf shops (such as the Pacific Sunwear chain, North Hollywood's Val Surf & Sport and Surfside Sports in Newport Beach) later this summer.

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