James Spina, Eyewear Icon And Former Editor In Chief Of 20/20 Magazine

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The 20/20 Podcast | Nico Roseillier | Vision Expo


A lot of interesting developments in the eyewear industry wouldn’t have come to the forefront if not for incredible initiatives like the Vision Expo. Thanks to the individuals who make it possible, the whole space is being democratized by giving all players big and small a chance to showcase their latest innovations. In this episode, we connect with Nico Roseillier, Founder of the UN-TI-TLED Creative Agency, and James Spina, the former Editor-in-Chief at 20/20 Magazine, discuss the value that the NOW Exhibit and Awards bring to Vision Expo and the eyewear industry in general. Nico is the creator of the NOW Exhibit and Awards, while James is the first recipient of its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. Tune in and get to know what’s around the corner!

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James Spina, Eyewear Icon And Former Editor In Chief Of 20/20 Magazine

This is a special episode as we’re leading Vision Expo East 2024. We are going to be talking about some of the fun stuff that’s happening at Vision Expo. Everybody who’s going there is prepared and is going to make the most of it. I have a returning guest, the one and only Nico Roseillier, the Founder and Creator, a Creative Strategist and Storyteller at the UN-TI-TLED Creative Agency, also the Creator of the Now Exhibit and Awards, which is something that we want to spend some time talking about. We’ll tap into Nico’s expertise on all of that in a moment.

Our special guest is James Spina, who has been the Former Editor-in-chief of 20/20 Magazine for many years. He has incredible experience in the world of women’s wear and W Magazine. He loves talking and writing about his favorite product, which is eyewear. There’s nobody better to have on the show to talk about eyewear and an eyewear show than James Spina. He is the first-ever recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Now Awards, which you received in 2023. Congratulations on that, James. Thank you for joining us here. I appreciate having you.

Thank you.

Vision Expo

After that long-winded intro, let’s talk about Vision Expo and NOW. Nico, I’ll start with you. You created this thing. How does one egg create an exhibit at a giant eyewear and optical show like Vision Expo?

It’s something that shows what’s happening in the industry, not only in terms of trends but also in terms of what’s new, what’s next, and what’s happening. It was necessary in the US circuit for eyewear shows. It did not exist before. It does exist in Europe. The way they show what’s happening in the industry was a great opportunity to represent everybody on one installation.

The old idea of NOW has always been about representing everybody in the industry, and it doesn’t matter the size or whether you’re licensed, independent, big guys, or small guys. I wanted to represent everybody every year to be able to show off what they’ve been working on and what they’ve been designing for you, that same platform, which is eyewear design. That’s the way this whole idea started. I always knew I wanted to grow it to become something more relevant. It’s something that people are looking forward to, and it recognizes people who have been doing things from above and beyond, thinking outside the box and representing different stuff.

In 2023, we did the first Now Awards, which was a huge success. This is going to be our third year in 2024, but in the first year, we got 120 frames submitted. In 2023, we got 220. In 2024, we are close to 280 frames submitted. It’s a great number. It’s great to see it grow. We have it now in the office. Everything is lying down. It’s some amazing stuff. I’m excited to share it with everybody who’s going to visit and come to the show to see all the fabulous work that people have been putting out.

It’s exciting. We’ll have the first day of the show at 4:30 at the bridge. We’ll have the ceremony for the awards, and we have nine different awards in 2024. Going from best optical to best sunglasses, both in license and in independent brands. We have best sustainable style. We have new emerging brands of designers.

We are bringing the Optical Lifetime Achievement Award, which would be number two. I have to change. James will be there to give and represent the awards himself. We’re doing a partnership with new awards with the Accessories Council, which I’m excited. I’ve been working closely with these guys. They’re doing a beautiful job and always representing the eyewear. I’m excited to have the Accessories Council present at awards with NOW.

You more than doubled the submissions in a couple of years. People are interested in sending in their products.

It’s always an interesting thing. I don’t do this all on my own. We have amazing committees in 2024. The committee changes every year. You are on the committees. I’m pleased to have you joining our committee. We have a few other people who are joining us. It has six committee members. The committee changes every year.

The whole idea of the committee is to get different opinions, views, and points. People are doing different stuff. We have amazing OD and the Host of the 20/20 Podcast, but we also have people who are from retailers to doctors, to designers, to buyers. There are a lot of different points of view, which makes that interesting in terms of the vote and how things are selected.

Last time we had this conversation, I forgot to mention off the top that I am also involved, but I’m grateful and honored to be invited to be on the committee. It’s a cool mixed group of people who are on that committee. It’s bringing in a lot of different perspectives. I’m grateful to be part of that and be involved in this whole process because it’s something I’ve never been involved in. I know you’re doing most of the work here, Nico, but to be related and connected to somebody putting on an award show like this is cool.

Everybody, we all love an award show. Everybody watches the Grammys, the Emmys, and the Oscars. Everybody loves it when somebody’s up there making their speech and holding their award. That was an awesome idea for you and a great natural next step to go from an exhibit to an award show to recognize people in these different areas of the industry.

Everybody appreciates being recognized. It’s a cool thing. We like watching it, but people who are on stage receiving an award are greatly appreciative of that. Let me plug that quickly before we move on to chatting with James. The NOW Awards show will be happening at the bridge at Vision Expo East. Make sure you’re there for that. I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun, and there’s going to be champagne. Am I overstepping by sharing this?

No, that’s good. There you’re right. There would be bubbles afterward.

James Spina And The Lifetime Achievement Award

If the awards show’s not enough, come to clink a glass and have a sip with us. Mr. James Spina, please enlighten us. Tell us about yourself. Tell us about who you are. If you don’t mind leading from there into why you think the Now Awards and the NOW Pavilion are an important addition to Vision Expo East?

I’m going to keep the part about me very brief. With many years deep into 2020 Magazine as the editor-in-chief, I was privy to so much that went on at Vision Expo, and that continues to go on. I’m going to lead right into this. Several years ago, when lockdown happened, it looked like, “What are we going to do next?” This guy Nico came up in collaboration and partnership with the Vision Council and Vision Expo to create a new aura and happening that could enhance what was then a trade show in crisis.

Although the trade show is back in gear and running Nico, at that point, came up with this idea to enhance the messaging and the story. No matter what your industry or product is, when it comes right down to it, it can sometimes be a sellathon. Retailers are coming to see what vendors have to offer. During the lockdown crisis, it was apparent that that was not enough. You need something else. People need to learn something. People need to feel a sense of communication and community. 2020 provided a nice part of that.


People need to learn something. People need to feel a sense of communication and a sense of community.


In print and digital, magazines do that. Online entities such as what you do right here do that. A trade show needs something to keep chattering and storytelling. Nico came up with the idea of the NOW. It took this concept of a trade show beyond a sellathon to a reason to communicate and tell stories about eyewear, this amazing product.

The NOW was developed. I was glad to be on the first committee. There were no awards at that point, but Nico was charged himself with creating a booth or themes that eyewear could fit into, and the eyewear vendors responded in a way that was not a product but what the product meant beyond the product. It’s the storytelling, the style, the cachet, and the devotion to sustainability. That happened with the first NOW.

In light of things that happen at Samoens, things that happen at Mito, and a variety of shows across the world, NOW added an award ceremony with voting with appropriate categories in both eyewear and sunwear and a number of different levels and layers with an achievement award. Years ago, I was graced with the ability to coin some wonderful things. I started calling eyewear the ultimate accessory. In 2024, Nico has embraced that. The Accessories Council and Accessories Magazine are awarding an ultimate accessories award at the NOW.

All of this is anticipated by a growing climate of noting to the industry. It’s not about trade shows. It’s about an optical professional sitting across from a consumer and not convincing them about eyewear but listening to what they need and giving them not only what they need but what they want when it comes to eyewear and sunwear. In a way, NOW encapsulates and incorporates that want and that need. For a trade show to put on a platform like that for its professionals and showgoers is an incredible, wonderful thing. It’s a new layer. The selling is important, but this layer can keep growing so that communication can grow anew each time.

It’s wonderful that this was likely forced by lockdown. Here’s yet another example of something happening during the lockdown that has a chance to grow and become an integral part of not only the eyewear industry but many other industries. In particular, with eyewear, we now have NOW, a platform to chat, talk, communicate, see the different styles, understand what they mean, figure out what trending is about, and acknowledge the vendors for the incredible work they do in creating this amazing product. Eyewear is unique. I can’t think of anything else where a tremendous need is fulfilled by something cool that you want. That’s the NOW. You want the NOW.

I did not know I was getting the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2023. Nico lied to me and told me another name. When I said that it was going to happen on stage, I left the stage. When I heard my name, I thought I had screwed up, and I was being called back on stage to give out the award. When I got up there and got that award, in many years, that was the capping of my career in optical. It was the proudest moment in my life in the field of optics.

I’m grateful also for the ability and the chance. Even though I’m no longer Editor-in-Chief at 20/20, I’m grateful for the chance to be behind the scenes with UN-TI-TLED and Nico as they continue to grow what is NOW. Everybody who’s going to the expo has a chance to look at the pavilion and come to the presentation. This is a chance to make what is an industry and an enlightening career on both sides of the table, on the retailer side and the vendor side. From the retailer and the vendor, it gives you a chance to tell a great story to the consumer and the eye wearer. That’s what I have to say.

The 20/20 Podcast | Nico Roseillier | Vision Expo
Vision Expo: This is really a chance to make the industry an enlightening career on both sides of the table.


Bringing People Together

I understand where you are in your career in this communicator position, and you’re wonderful at putting that all together. Thank you very much, James. I see that from what you’re sharing, the NOW is bringing people together, forming this community, and allowing that communication, whereas it was segmented before.

It always has been right. You have to go to that booth to learn about that thing and that booth to learn about that thing. Now, it’s centralized. Here’s a space where you can learn. Not everything is there, but many of the designers, brands, and pieces of eyewear are right there where you can learn about them, see them, touch them, and feel them. The first time I went to the Now Pavilion, I was shocked at how many different designers there were because we tend to get bombarded by some of the bigger players that overshadow a lot of the smaller ones.

The right term is that this is democratic. The smallest designer and the biggest designer are on the same stage and platform. That’s cool because I haven’t seen that before. It’s amazing, and the fact that somebody of your experience stature is speaking highly of it brings more credibility to the whole thing. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. I appreciate the storytelling. Nico, before we wrap up, is there anything else you want to share?

James and I talk about being able to create and move forward. You need to know your story. We’re true believers in learning what has been done in the past to move further and forward. It starts with all of that. You see this through the NOW, the exhibit, and everything going on to see what has been done the inspiration, and when it’s moving forward. James is a huge. If you have any questions, I encourage everyone to track him down through Instagram and Facebook because he has a huge knowledge of many years in this industry, understanding, knowing, and being able to dissect all those zero stories and how things have been moving.


We’re true believers of learning what has been done in the past to be able to move further and forward.


It is interesting to represent not just many years of James in 20/20 but also the 50th anniversary of Jobson 20/20 Magazine in 2024. There will be an installation at the entrance of under the Crystal Palace at the show next to Starbucks. It’s a good location indicator for most people, but there will be an installation showing the last 50 years of Jobson 2020 Magazine 2024, and you’ll be able to see the many years of work that James has put into it. Everything is represented there as 50 years, covering over 600 covers of magazines over the last many years that will be shown there, as well as the timeline. T

his idea of knowing your story in any industry you are in is represented there in this timeline to understand what happened over the last many years, not in Jobson and 20/20 Magazine, but how all the different parts of our industry, from big acquisitions to the show moving before many times to show all of that into it. That will be there. If you have any questions about music, James will call us from the vault. There is quite a bit of record behind James. There’s even more in the house upstairs, but if you have any questions on rock and roll and music in particular, I would invite you to contact James.

I wanted to ask about that. If anybody is listening to the audio app, if you have a chance, go on YouTube and pull up the video of this, and you’ll see what Nico’s referring to. Behind James is a lot of records. James, describe to us what’s happening here.

My career at Women’s Wear also incorporated my longtime desire to be a writer about music. At Women’s Wear and WI, I was also the music editor. I am obsessed with music, be it rock, folk, blues, or jazz. Music is my lifelong obsession. Oddly enough, if you were reading between the lines to what went on in this magazine, it’s a vaguely disguised music magazine. I focused my passion on music and put it into eyewear, and it worked out.

There is a lot of stuff in intricate eyewear that goes on with music. You’re in an amazing arena with optical. The optical arena is exciting. The fashion brands, the independent brands, whether it be music icons or wearing eyewear, there’s so much there. You have the chance to embrace it. I encourage you to take a look at the anniversary booth that Nico helped design. I was not a part of it anymore, but many, many years have been quite a stab for a magazine. I’m a music junkie. I’m a magazine fanatic and an eyewear fanatic. You got it all coming soon with Vision Expo. Get to it. It’s a great event and a great chance for all of you to get together.

It’s the last time it’s happening in New York. It’s the last time we’ll get a taste of all of that together, including the expo and the flavor of New York. Before we wrap up, James, I can’t wait to meet you in person. There’s a lot I can learn from you, even in a short conversation. I look forward to seeing you there.

I will be there. Thank you. I look forward to it.

The Big Move

Nico, given that this is the last year it’s happening in New York, at least for the foreseeable future, the awards, there’s a New York flavor or the Pavilion, there’s a bit of a New York flavor to it.

On the pavilion side, yes. I try to move the theme to be oriented to celebrating many years of the show in New York. In the show, I’ve moved before. Part of knowing this story is that I’ve moved from California to Nevada to New York. The theme is New York nostalgia. We have New York City fashion. We have the color of the year, which is cool. Some others celebrate independent brands and the wow factor. The last one is about innovation, new technology, and the sustainability of materials. We’re trying to represent all of the New York side of it.

It’s going to be a big change to move from New York to Florida. There are a lot of opinions out there. Living here in Chicago, I look forward to seeing the sun and the warmth. What makes the show is not where the location of the show is. What makes the show is the people who are in the show and the people who are there to share and see each other, create those relationships, and learn from each other. It’s a big move, but at the end of the day, it is the optical and eyewear industry community that makes a show a show. This is what I hope that people do remember when it comes to embracing change.

The 20/20 Podcast | Nico Roseillier | Vision Expo
Vision Expo: What makes the show is not the location of the show; it’s the people that in the show.


We can’t wrap up Nico without you showing us the trophy. This is what the winners receive right here. This is what James received in 2023. It’s very hoistable.

It would be nice for people to hold it in one hand while making a speech in the other. That’s the idea.

Thank you both for coming on to share your thoughts on Vision Expo, the Now Pavilion, and the awards. Make sure you’re there to celebrate and cheer on the people who’ve received awards and have a sip of bubbly after building the community that James is talking about. While you’re around Vision Expo, make sure you go check out the pavilion and all the cool frames and vote. People can vote. Is that how it works?

There’s a QR code. This is the award that’s given at the end of the show, but it’s the one for the Popular Choice Awards. You can scan it. You get information on the frames and the brands where the booth is located at the show. As you scan, it enters automatically for the popular choice. That’s a great award to win. That’s one that’s presented at the end because we need the lens of the show for people to vote. I’m looking forward to seeing everybody.

I can’t wait. I can’t believe it’s coming up so soon. I’m excited. You may be even a little nervous, given everything you have to do. Thank you again, James, for doing this. I appreciate having you on. Nico, thanks for everything you do. I can’t wait to see you soon. Thanks to everybody who’s reading. We’ll see you guys in the next episode.


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About Nico Roseillier

The 20/20 Podcast | Nico Roseillier | Vision ExpoBorn and raised in Normandie France, Nico studied architecture and industrial design in Paris before moving to NYC. While in New York, he started his optical career designing eyewear for Modo. After ten years in NYC and four at Modo, Roseillier switched coasts to Los Angeles, where he became Creative Director for REM eyewear which then became Derigo.

In that decade of inspiration, he spearheaded brands as diverse as Lucky Brand, Converse, Tumi and John Varvatos. 4 years ago Nico reestablished himself in Chicago, where he now delivers full design expertise and creative direction on the powerful and independent entities of State Optical, American Optical and Europa Eyewear.

Among his accolades, Nico has won the Vision Expo awards for best booth design and best brand activation as well as an Accessory Council Design Excellence award for his collaboration with 3 time Grammy award winner Maxwell. Nico Roseillier is also responsible for the vision and conceptualization of the new NOW trend pavilion debuting at the VEE 2022 in NYC .


About James Spina

The 20/20 Podcast | Nico Roseillier | Vision ExpoCelebrating nearly twenty five years as Editor in Chief of 20/20 Magazine, James continues energizing a 50-year writing and editing career in publishing with a special forte in delivering trendsetting insight for a readership in search of guidance and support in their professional destinies.

With a background including stints as Art Director of Women’s Wear Daily and Creative Director of W Magazine, James continues to shape his editorial initiative based on the premise that readers crave information driven by imagination and entertainment.

James remains active with freelance forays in both music and automotive magazines including Mojo, Magneto, The Rodders Journal and Octane. Fueled with his ever expanding objectives in all forms of social and print media he is proud of awards from the ACE Accessories Council, Folio Magazine and, most currently, The Vision Council’s NOW Lifetime Achievement Award.

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