Industry Friends and Colleagues Recall Gloria Nicola’s Talent and Generosity


Gloria Nicola.

NEW YORK—Accolades for former 20/20 Magazine editor Gloria Nicola flowed from friends and colleagues following news of her death last week at age 74. Nicola, who wrote about eyewear fashion with insight and a spot-on sense of style for nearly three decades, was admired and appreciated by designers and executives from boutique companies to major industry players and fellow journalists.

“Gloria was one of the most unique talents I ever had the pleasure of working with,” said Marc Ferrara, CEO of Jobson’s Information Services division, publisher of 20/20 Magazine and Vision Monday. “She applied her insights and acute fashion radar to our market for multiple decades, nudging it toward maturity as if she was raising one of her own children. We are all so thankful she did that with her wonderful sense of humor and comforting stylistic grace.”

James J. Spina, 20/20’s editor in chief, said “I’m at a near loss for words expressing my grief on the passing of Gloria Nicola, my friend and 20/20 colleague. Some years ago she was on the verge of “interviewing” some cartoon characters as part of coverage of a brand in children’s eyewear. She loved the bit of scribble I did representing her character. For years she would use it on all of her columns having to do with kids’ eyewear. Please look to it as a tribute to her.”

Marge Axelrad, Vision Monday’s editorial director, remarked, “I’m sad beyond words to learn of the passing of Gloria Nicola, our long time 20/20 colleague and friend who was one-of-a-kind. She helped shape the modern history of the eyewear business through her dedication, unique eye, great writing and clever wit. Gloria was such a gentle soul. We’ll miss her.”

A keen observer of the eyewear fashion scene, Nicola was loved and respected by many eyewear designers such as Blake Kuwahara, founder of Focus Group West, who said, “Her keen eye and her never-ending pursuit of the next trend was unsurpassed. I'll always remember our meetings together, and her mischievous laugh.”

Ed Beiner of The Edward Beiner Group commented, “Gloria had an amazing eye, was a very talented woman and touched the lives of all who met her. I had the privilege of spending two days with Gloria in Luxembourg touring the Gold and Wood factory. It gave me the opportunity to appreciate her sense of humor, her warmth.”

ClearVision Optical’s executive vice president, Peter Friedfeld, observed, “Gloria was an original. She was highly insightful and dedicated to her work and those who she worked closely with. I always enjoyed my meetings with Gloria, and valued her ideas and thoughts on our frame designs and business ideas.”

David Duralde, chief creative officer for Kenmark Eyewear, called Nicola “the ultimate den mother for designers, seeing our talent before we did, believing in us and encouraging us to make a difference through design.”

Sheila Vance, CEO and designer of Sama Eyewear, noted that Nicola was “smart in recognizing new talents. She covered stories and personalities that without her recognition would have been lost. She was always ahead of time in her sense of fashion. I truly loved her and I am forever grateful to her for taking the time to just listen to me, and all of us in this field.”

Eyewear designer Blake Kuwahara of Focus West Group with Gloria Nicola.

Nicola was also known for her personal sense of style, particularly her taste in eyeglasses. She often wore glasses created by designers she knew and wrote about, such as Gai Gherardi and Barbara McReynolds of l.a. Eyeworks.

“Gloria was a singular figure in optical publishing, and a champion of independent designers,” Gherardi and McReynold told VMail. “We cherished her support of l.a.Eyeworks. That she included our designs among her personal wardrobe will always be an honor.”

Others cited Nicola’s exceptional knowledge of the frame market and deep understanding of style trends. “Beyond having a wonderful fashion sense for the newest and most unique in eyewear, Gloria was always fair and her inclusions combined the best from the major suppliers as well as up and coming frame companies. You did not pull the wool over her eyes," said Arthur Jankolovits, founder of New York Eye/Hart’s.

Arnold Schmied, a member of the Silhouette International’s supervisory board, cited Nicola’s exceptional knowledge of the frame market and fashion trends. “Gloria Nicola was one of the real experts and energizers of our optical industry. I have always been impressed with her broad knowledge and her curiosity, her sincere interest in new developments. We will miss her and are thankful for all the support which she has given to us over the past years in order to better understand the U.S. market.”

Cedric Moreau, general manager, Mykita North America, recalled Nicola as “a lady and icon who had a passion for our industry. Meeting, reading or simply listening to Gloria was empowering and fun.”

Others singled out Nicola’s talents as a journalist. “My favorite memories of Gloria are always the ones where a brand designer from outside the optical industry would call after she interviewed them and say, ‘She was the most brilliant and charming interviewer I’ve ever had,’” recalled Liz Tontodonati, director of marketing, Match Eyewear, adding, “Gloria was a shining star.”

Eyewear fashion consultant Valerie Vail also praised Nicola’s editorial skills. "Throughout the years while working at Lafont, Brendel and Modo, Gloria and I worked closely together on market trends, new designer launches and new product releases. Gloria was a highly respected and intelligent editor who worked hard and created engaging market, designer and product features. Her interview style was always appreciated and commented on by top designers. She was an icon in the industry and will always be remembered.”

James Spina’s playful sketch of Gloria Nicola captures her energy and colorful personality.

Several people recalled Nicola’s kindness and generosity. “Gloria was a genuine and unique person who did so much for so many in the optical industry,” said Debbie Fitzgibbons, director, marketing communications at Hilco Vision. “She will truly be missed.”

Christian Roth and Eric Domege, designers of Christian Roth eyewear, remarked, “Gloria was always so nice, sincere and had a very special talent. Gone too soon her kindness and gentle soul will be missed.”

Sam Shapiro, founder of Paws n Claws Eyewear, recalled, “I always ran ideas by Gloria and she always tried to help me with open arms.” He also called her “a great animal activist. She had many kitty cats and she never turned down any cat who came to her back door.”

Sheila Vance of Sama Eyewear called Nicola “an amazing friend, a decent human being and a humanitarian who was on the board of my foundation helping kids all over the world.” She added, “Her patience, her smile, her sense of adventure and fearless approach was unique to her.”

Summing up Nicola’s contributions to the eyewear industry, Mark Ginsberg, chief marketing officer for VSP Global, said “Gloria's gentle demeanor and quiet resolve belied a ferocious talent. Not simply a gifted writer, she was also a trailblazer and an inspiration to all that were lucky enough to know her. She was a true woman of substance.”