May 19, 1997 12:00 PM

TIME WAS, MOVIE STARS DONNED dark glasses to dodge pushy fans, intrusive photographers—and occasionally even the sun. Now, though, celebs seem to flaunt their shades the way an Oscar hopeful flashes her Harry Winstons. And increasingly the frames they flaunt are those made by Alex and Sheila Vance, both 41, owners of the L.A. firm BADA U.S.A., Inc. Since buying the Japanese-founded company in 1992 (BADA is Italian slang for “look out”), the couple have attracted celeb clients such as Val Kilmer, Cindy Crawford and John F. Kennedy Jr. With BADAs “we believe that you can make a fashion statement,” says Sheila, who manages marketing while Alex designs. “It bothers me when people take off their glasses to look good.”

Alex, a former architect, and his wife of 23 years, a onetime art history teacher, first spied BADAs in 1987 in a Japanese catalog and within two years had become their U.S. wholesalers. As owners they offer their $200-$400 frames in platinum-, titanium- and gold-plated models and in styles ranging from ’30s retro to ultramodern. Their success—a reported $20 million in sales last year—has changed the way they too see the world. Admits Alex: “I was wearing contact lenses until we got into this business.”

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