Zyloware Relates the Passing of Family-Owned Firm’s Former Chairman, Robert (Bob) Shyer


Bob Shyer in front of painting of Zyloware Long Island City factory.
NEW YORK—The Shyers and Zyloware family are saddened to relate the passing of Robert (Bob) Shyer, former chairman of Zyloware Eyewear, the oldest family-owned-and-operated frame company in the U.S. Widely considered a visionary leader, Bob Shyer was best known in the optical industry for creating the first-ever celebrity-branded eyewear, Sophia Loren and was an active leader in the eyewear and vision care community. He died peacefully on Dec. 19, surrounded by family. He was 86.

Around the office, as Zyloware noted, “Bob was larger than life. He was not only a brother, father and uncle, he was also a brilliant designer and technician, a walking encyclopedia for all things optical, a comedian and perhaps most famously ‘almost a doctor.’ Those who were fortunate enough to have known and worked alongside Bob will remember his passion for fashion eyewear, for Zyloware and its family of employees, and for the entire vision care community.”

Henry Shyer, Bob’s brother, commented to VMail, “My brother and I were partners for 60 years. Of course, he will be missed very much. Zyloware is 95 years old and Zyloware will carry the banner for all of us. We remain a strong family business. “

(L to r) Henry Shyer, Jamie Shyer, Bob Shyer, and Chris Shyer honoring Bob and Henry at the Prevent Blindness event 2014.
After graduating from Long Island University in 1954, Bob Shyer started at Zyloware, joining his father Joseph, who founded the company in 1923 at the advent of manufacturing frames from zyl. Almost immediately, he set about the task of operating the company’s factory in Long Island City, honing his notable skills at developing new frame styles. Bob’s brother, Henry, soon joined the family business and the brothers became an unstoppable team.

In 1968, Bob and Henry took the helm, Bob as Zyloware’s president. Bob is recognized for innovating many industry firsts, even laying the foundation for what has evolved into today’s licensed eyewear branding. During the 1960’s, Bob developed the first-ever, commercially viable nylon, nearly indestructible optical frame. Called the “Invincible,” the frame went on to sell over 30 million pairs.

In 1976, Bob captured the attention of the U.S. market when Zyloware launched the first American designer eyewear brand, Gloria Vanderbilt, now the longest-running frame license with a single eyewear company. Bob also created the first eyewear named for a celebrity, partnering with Academy Award-winning actress, Sophia Loren, a legend and beloved as one of the world’s most beautiful women.

Sophia Loren Eyewear has been credited in large part for transforming the world’s perception of eyewear from a medical device to a fashion accessory. Under Bob’s leadership, Zyloware then launched award-winning Stetson Eyewear, the first licensed American eyewear brand for men. All three lines continue today as leading eyewear collections for consumers.

Bob Shyer with Sophia Loren.
Like all the Shyers at Zyloware, Bob was a dedicated and charismatic leader of many industry boards. He twice served as president of the Optical Manufacturers Association (1976-78, 1992-94), which was founded by his father, and served as treasurer for the Better Vision Institute and trustee for the Optical Workers Union pension plan during the 1970s.

Bob was a founder of The Vision Council and served as president from 1989-1992. Bob was also a member of the Young President’s Organization (1971-81) and since then, YPO Gold.

The entire Shyer family was honored by the Optical Laboratories Association with its Director’s Choice Award in 2004 “for 81 years of contribution to the optical Lab community.” In 2014, Bob and his brother Henry, won the “Person of Vision Award” presented by Prevent Blindness for their dedication to eye health and eyecare.

The family’s statement noted,”The Zyloware family is grateful for Bob’s leadership and lasting vision; the legacy he leaves behind speaks for itself: Zyloware celebrates its 95th anniversary in 2018.

Henry Shyer (l), Bob Shyer (r), Joseph Shyer (seated).
He is survived by his wife Catherine, his four children: Kirby, Christopher (current president and co-CEO of Zyloware), Alison and Elizabeth; and two grandchildren, Griffin and Grace.

Contributions in Bob’s name can be made to Prevent Blindness America here. The family has also set up a website for those who wish to offer tributes and memories which can be accessed here.

Visitors can share comments by navigating to the ‘Tribute’ section. Check back to this site for details about a memorial service being planned for mid-January 2018 in New York City.