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Fashion Reloaded: 'Matrix' sunglasses hot commodity

"The Matrix Reloaded" is one stylish movie—the set, the cars, the clothes. Especially the clothes.

There's Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) in reptilian leather, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) in oil-slick vinyl, and Neo (Keanu Reeves) in a cassock-inspired coat—long, black and swirling—over a black Lycra T-shirt, black pants and motocross boots.

Very cool-looking. But all that dark leather and vinyl is way too hot for summer.

Aaah, but the sunglasses! They're perfect for the sunshine. And they're designed by Richard Walker, a Florida native who grew up in Kissimmee—"between orange groves and Brahman bull fields," Walker says in a phone interview from his New York design studio.

Seven years ago, he was living in Miami Beach, running a bicycle-style messenger service for model agencies, film labs and production companies.

Unable to find sunglasses frames he really loved, he bought materials, borrowed a local optician's lens-cutting machine and started experimenting with designs of his own.

He was still at it when he moved to New York a year later. There he discovered the world of jewelry design, which gave him the tools and techniques to fine-tune his clumsy efforts.

He started a company, Blinde Design Project, found a factory in France to manufacture his eyewear, and sold the first two styles to Fred Siegel, the trendy Hollywood boutique. Costume designers fell in love with them, stylists started buying them, and celebrities—including Madonna and Lenny Kravitz—started wearing them.

It didn't take long for Kym Barrett, costume designer for "The Matrix," to follow the buzz.

"She rang and asked if I'd be interested in creating some sci-fi eyewear for the movie," says Walker, 34. "She sent me a script. I started putting a collection on paper."

The stylish "Matrix" shades caught the eye of other wardrobe designers, and commissions to create eyewear for "Charlie's Angels" and "Tomb Raider" followed. Then came "Matrix Reloaded."

"Many larger eyewear-licensing groups wanted to launch their new collections with that film," says Walker. "It became a design battle"—despite the whopping $10 million product-placement fee.

"But Kym Barrett and the directors stood behind me. Even some actors basically said, 'This is the guy we have to run with; these are the designs we need.' "

Not only that: The placement fee was waived.

Once again, Walker found himself on a "Matrix" set, "watching the filming, studying the actors, picking up on the feeling." Then he sat down and started designing.

The shapes are "faster, slicker, more wrapped," for the second movie, he says. And this time, fans and fashionistas will be able to own the chic shades.

Blinde Design was, well, blindsided by the public's demand for "Matrix sunglasses" after the first film's launch. But this time, it's ready—sort of.

"We thought we'd anticipated the demand (from eyewear retailers), but we're overwhelmed," says Frederic Ferrant, sales director. "It takes four months to produce the frames because of the technicalities involved with the curving design, so some orders won't be delivered until September."

Five styles of sunglasses will be offered: those worn by Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, Agent Smith and the Twins. Each comes stamped with the Warner Bros. trademark, in its own hard case.

The sunglasses are available at some retail shops, or they can be ordered online at blinde.com. The cost for each of the supercool Matrix styles: $240.

But no amount of money will buy the daring, V-shaped frames worn by Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith).

"Jada's so tiny. That frame worked for her, but once we enlarged it, it just didn't work," says Walker.

He changed his mind when he saw how cool the frames looked in the movie, though.

"Now I can't believe I didn't do it," he groans.

Not to worry, Rich. You get a second chance. "The Matrix Revolutions," third in the series, launches Nov. 5.

So you wanna look like Neo or Trinity? Here's how to pull it off

"The Matrix" style is urban armor, and it's "the" hot look for fall on the fashion runways. But if you don't want to pony up to the designers, that's OK: The components can be found in sporting goods stores, motorcycle shops, even those emporiums that sell sex toys and sleazy clothing. Our personal shopping guide to "The Matrix" look will give you a head start.

The character: Neo (Keanu Reeves)

Ensemble: Mandarin collar, long black coat, form-fitting black lycra T-shirt, black pants, harness belt and motocross boots.

Important accessories: The almost frameless, insect-eye sunglasses.

Where to find it: The sunglasses are at the trendy kiosks that populate most malls. The signature coat, however, will have to be custom-made. A custom tailor in Nepal offers a made-to-measure, pure wool version for $462, www.baronboutique.com.

The character: Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss)

Ensemble: The directors wanted her to look like an oil slick, says the film's costume designer, Kym Barrett, so Moss was poured head-to-ankle into polyvinyl chloride — you might know it simply as vinyl.

Important accessories: Sunglasses and a gun.

Where to find it: It is out there, but the neighborhoods are quite dicey. For the most demure of the decadent locations, try www.baroness.com.There, heavy-gauge vinyl leggings are priced $270. Pair them with a high-neck, long-sleeved black top ($205); the combination makes a very convincing Trinity outfit.

The character: Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne)

Ensemble: A long, reptilian textured dark coat, very similar to Neo's, over a dark three-piece suit.

Crucial detail: Attitude; Morpheus has it by the bucketful.

Important accessories: Pince-nez sunglasses (they have no side pieces and are held on by spring action in the nosepiece) and custom-made purple alligator boots.

Where to find it: They're everywhere trendy sunglasses are sold, including the Internet. Most styles sell for under $50.

The character: Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith)

Ensemble: Burgundy, faux alligator-hide jacket and fingerless burgundy gloves.

Crucial detail: It's vinyl, not reptile.

Important accessories: The sunglasses, natch, and an unfortunate hairdo that looks very much like so many foamy pink hair curlers.

Where to find it: A similar look can be found at www.findcoolclothes.com. There, a buckle neck, pucker-pleather-front (fake leather) jacket with sweater sleeves and back panel sells for $69.95.

The character: Persephone (Monica Bellucci)

Ensemble: Barrett designed the character as an "evil-in-rubber Snow White." The frock was a custom-made, shapely, low-cut, iridescent, transluscent, sleeveless "business suit" that fit like kielbasa casing.

Crucial detail: It takes a body with more curves than the Snake River to pull off this look.

Important accessories: A personal trainer.

Where to find it: The closest thing we could find off the Internet rack was a lycra, wet-look, ivory mini cocktail dress, $69 at www.leatherheat.com.

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