By  on March 14, 2011

MILAN — As the rays of economic recovery grow brighter, exhibitors at Mido, the three-day eyewear trade fair that ended here March 6, said they were looking to expand their reach through new licenses and technologies and targeted demographics.

Trends at the fair ran from retro-inspired frames to those that replicated runway collections. Blue made a strong appearance, spotted on azure-mirrored lenses from Police and Carrera and within Giorgio Armani’s collection, including a new oval metal frame with curled earpieces and graduated blue lenses.

Marchon presented its first collection inspired by the Lacoste’s iconic piquet polo after inking a licensing deal last September. Mark Ginsberg, senior vice president of global marketing services, said, “Lacoste is a huge global brand and it’s opened up a new channel of distribution to a younger consumer. We’re not cannibalizing our existing business but attracting new customers.”

Ginsberg said the company hopes to expand its breadth of assortment with new licenses.

“The plan is to launch one new brand or license per year for the next five years, strategically focusing on geographical reach, as well as sales,” Ginsberg said. “We want to fill voids in our portfolio rather than just add to it.”

To this effect, a new joint venture dubbed Marchon3D with 3-D technology provider RealD Inc. was launched at the end of last year to establish a footprint in the emerging industry.

Also expanding its assortment was eyewear manufacturer Safilo, presenting Gucci’s first sunglasses collection for children. Priced at $140, the two styles, one for boys and one for girls, are targeted at children age 7 and older and produced from a three-layer acetate. The two models are personalized by the Gucci web and logo, with a silver teddy bear motif inlaid inside the arms. Also on show was Safilo’s second kids’ line for Tommy Hilfiger, aimed at eight- to 12-year-olds and set to bow in May.

Eyewear company Allison unveiled a teen collection for Italian fashion brand Moschino consisting of eight styles — three sunglasses and five optical models — featuring bows and polka dots in child-friendly bright colorways. The Padua-based manufacturer also introduced a new set of musical-themed projects for its Try Star eyewear brand in collaboration with music giant EMI, aimed at reaching a more diverse consumer.

“We’re trying to offer something additional to the consumer rather than just new models of sunglasses,” said Lucio Lozza, senior vice president of marketing, licensing and product for Allison.

Styles with interchangeable temples and arms customized by EMI musicians or printed with iconic band graphics are set to bow in September. More than 200 arms are available and will retail from 29 to 59 euros, or around $40 to $82, and 119 euros, or about $166, for the frames.

Reaching new demographics was also a hot topic at De Rigo Vision SpA, where managing director Michele Aracri said, “We’re contemplating launching Zegna’s second line of eyewear, Zegna Sport, in 2012. This would really develop the brand. I don’t think we’ve yet achieved or fulfilled the potential of the brand,” referring to its worldwide eyewear license with Ermenegildo Zegna that runs until 2014.

Aracri said that after investing more to support Zegna’s centennial last year, eyewear sales grew by 30 percent compared with 2009.

During the fair, De Rigo Vision SpA revealed it had added to its existing portfolio that includes luxury brands Celine, Escada, Givenchy and Loewe, inking a licensing agreement for the design, production and worldwide distribution of Carolina Herrera New York and CH Carolina Herrera eyewear and sunglasses. House brand Police, however, was the company’s focal point at its stand, with a new Eighties-influenced aviator model complete with blue-mirrored lenses. According to Aracri, the Police brand accounts for around 34 percent of De Rigo Vision’s sales.

Marcolin also took the fair as an opportunity to reveal it had extended its licensing pact with Tom Ford through to 2022. The publicly listed Italian eyewear manufacturer, which plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary later this year, said it expects to roll out Diesel’s new eyewear collection in the fall, after inking a five-year license with the Italian lifestyle brand at the end of 2010.

“It will be Diesel in a totally new way, nothing like what people have seen in the past,” said Maurizio Marcolin, style and licensing director for the Marcolin Group.

Setting the scene for the industry, Vittorio Tabacchi, president of Mido and Italian industry body ANFAO, said at a press conference that Italian eyewear exports were up 17.3 percent to 2.2 billion euros, or $3.06 billion, compared with 2009, bolstered primarily by an uptick in the sales of sunglasses. According to ANFAO figures however, the domestic market took a beating last year, dropping 2.5 percent compared with 2009.

“The U.S. has been the first market to recover because its distribution channels are so much more advanced,” said Allison’s Lozza. “Italy is much slower. The U.S. expects 24-hour service, whereas Italian retailers are still investing in stock, so it’s harder for them to grow.”

But Lapo Elkann’s Italia Independent label was proving the domestic market still presents opportunities.

“In 2010 we more than doubled our wholesale revenues compared to 2009 to approximately 3 million euros, or about $4 million,” said Andrea Tessitore, founder and chief executive officer of Italia Independent.

He said the brand, showcasing quirky styles such as fluorescent aviators, is distributed in 600 opticians in Italy and 300 worldwide. He forecasts a sales hike of 30 percent for 2011.

“Our goal is to expand to 800 opticians within Italy and then to focus on foreign markets,” Tessitore added.

Persol unveiled its latest capsule line, dubbed the “Roadster Edition,” inspired by vintage race cars of the same name.

With the runway in mind, Laudomia Pucci, image director for the Italian fashion, was at Marchon’s stand to unveil Pucci’s new symmetrical monogram logo featured on its latest eyewear collection. Cut-out details on sunglasses resembled Pucci creative director Peter Dundas’ sexy dresses for the brand. Safilo presented its Yves Saint Laurent frames in jewel hues replicating the French label’s catwalk colorways, while Luxottica showcased a foldable style from Burberry in bright tones seen in its spring 2011 runway show.

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