Burch Inks Eyewear Pact With Luxottica

American designer will unveil first collection for fall retailing.

MILAN — Tory Burch has added a new element to her lifestyle brand — eyewear.

This story first appeared in the January 29, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The designer has signed a six-year license with Luxottica Group SpA for the design, manufacturing and global distribution of sunglasses and prescription frames for the Tory Burch brand.

Burch will supervise the creative process, working closely with Luxottica’s design and product teams. The styles will have entry-level prices in the luxury eyewear segment, or from $145 to $190 at retail. Once it reaches full distribution, the Italian eyewear giant projects annual sales of $30 million for the Tony Burch line.

“I feel people are drawn to accessories now in general, and it’s a category we want to continue to evolve and develop,” Burch said. “With what’s going on in the economy, it’s something new and exciting and it’s opening at a specific price point that will be accessible. Plus eyewear is an easy way to update a look.”

According to a Luxottica spokeswoman, it’s premature to discuss designs for the first collection, which will bow in the summer and will be in stores in the fall.

“The characteristics of the [Burch] brand fit excellently in our portfolio, making it even more complete, especially in a market as strategic as North America,” said Antonio Miyakawa, executive vice president, wholesale and marketing, of Luxottica Group. “Thanks to this new license, which shows how we continue to invest even when times are difficult, we are also strengthening our positioning in U.S department stores.”

Since its launch in 2004, the Tory Burch brand has expanded to include ready-to-wear, shoes, handbags and jewelry and reflects its founder’s fashion style and lifestyle.

The eyewear will be available in Tory Burch’s 17 stores in the U.S., as well as select department stores, high-end independent optical shops and Luxottica’s retail chains. It will initially roll out to North America, followed by Europe and the rest of the world.

The partnership marks Burch’s first full license. Her shoe line, which accounts for the bulk of her brand’s revenues, is a result of a production partnership with the Camuto Group, while her jewelry and handbags are produced in-house.

“Accessories are becoming really important for our business right now, and our customer is responding to the accessories we do offer and eyewear is a natural extension of that,” Burch told WWD. “Licensing is something we feel is important to eyewear and a couple of other categories we’re thinking about, but it’s not something we plan on doing a lot of.”