When Dragon announced last week that it had broken away from it’s partnership with Oakley, and therefore, massive parent company Luxottica, it made an interesting statement in the rise, or in this case, “re-rise” of being niche. Both Transworld Business and BoardSportSource in Europe did a great job of covering what went down and why with the people running Dragon. In the end, according Source and General manager Aaron Behle, being independent meant freedom again and the ability to do more than just eyewear but expand into youth lifestyle accessories.

However one has to speculate if the move to get investors and go back to being independent was a strategic decision to keep the brand alive if, for example, Luxottica thought Dragon wasn’t strong enough to sustain as an optical brand within their portfolio.

According to our fresh consumer data on sunglasses preferences and spending patterns, Dragon ranks fairly low as a preferred sunglass brand among 13-25-year-olds -basically coming in at the same percentages in ranking with generic collections from H&M, Hot Topic, and Juicy Couture. That being said, Dragon does have an independent streak and does well in preferences for goggles among snowboarders. They also have a pretty decent pro team including surfers Rob Machado and Mick Fanning, and snowboarder Jamie Lynn. Which begs the question of how effective truly, are action sports pro teams when it comes to influencing youth culture overall? (see Premium story for answers). If they truly are expanding into other youth lifestyle accessories, going niche may be a strategically good move because they haven’t quite moved the dial yet in sunglass preferences with youth culture, especially compared with, say, Electric Visual.

Overall, the concept makes for another interesting story in questioning exactly how big of a market potential does the sunglasses market have in today’s youth culture. Because as a key accessory to style, the popularity of sunglasses in global youth culture markets isn’t slowing down (look at how brands such as Super are exploding), but given the state of the economy, both in North America and Europe, spending patterns have changed, indicating new opportunities at specific price points for specific demographics. This is where the real opportunities for youth lifestyle accessories, including sunglasses, really come into play.