Ilori Marks First Anniversary

Luxe eyewear brand pushes exclusive product, service.

Ilori is working to change the way consumers view eyewear.

This story first appeared in the September 8, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The luxury retail chain celebrates its one-year anniversary this week, maintaining the goal of offering customers exclusive product and top service in an austere, designer environment. Executives believe these efforts will push sunglasses as the next “It” accessory.

“Ilori was designed to target consumers whose needs were not being met, the true treasure hunters seeking new, unique, rare pieces,” said Michael Hansen, vice president and general manager. “So all aspects of Ilori have been designed to target that consumer. We think Ilori has influenced the category to become an important accessory. Shoes and bags are important to the luxury consumer, now it’s sunglasses and it’s reflected in our results.”

Hansen said the average sale at Ilori — just over $350 — is more than double that of a typical eyewear store. In addition, 16 percent of Ilori sales are multiple-pair purchases as opposed to 5 percent at other eyewear outlets.

“Ilori goes all the way to the heart and soul of what a luxury store should be,” said Sheila Vance, whose Sama, Loree Rodkin and Badgley Mischka lines retail there. “They endorse the idea that the future is all about service, quality and luxury.”

Hansen said each of Ilori’s 12 boutiques is pushing to average $1 million in sales annually by the end of its third year, and that “all of [Ilori’s] stores are ahead of expectations.” He cited Ray-Ban, Tom Ford, Persol and Chanel as top sellers and noted that the last week of August was Ilori’s best week to date.

“In a time period when the sun season goes down and the economy is bad, we’re continuing to set new milestones,” he said.

Luxottica Group, which owns the Ilori chain, will open six more stores by yearend. Current locations include New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Honolulu and Toronto.

Ilori has focused on luring the luxury consumer by offering limited edition pieces exclusive to the store. In August, it launched a yellow frame by Badgley Mischka with the phrase “Mark & James (heart) Ilori” decorating the temple. Hansen said he sold 10 units in two weeks. In July, Dolce & Gabbana introduced a limited edition crystal eyewear collection at the New York flagship. Sama made a $25,000 pair for the store that featured a pyramid of D-flawless and pavé diamonds.

“Our premise was to build an assortment of exclusive product and now 5 percent of our product is that or limited edition, and that’s something new for the sun category,” Hansen said. “It used to not be important to produce, but we’ve seen a tremendous amount of momentum in our vendors building limited editions.”

The store has also garnered credibility from eyewear designers, many of whom have played host at Ilori to fete their new collections. Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler used the Manhattan space in SoHo in April to showcase their eyewear among Mary-Kate Olsen and Tory Burch. Thakoon and Derek Lam have used the space similarly. Next up is a collaboration with Valerie Steele in honor of her exhibit “Gothic: Dark Glamour” at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Ilori curated sunglasses celebrating Gothic style.

“Our overall strategy is to celebrate eyewear and treat it as a treasure, a work of art, and it’s displayed that way and designed to support that,” Hansen said. “It’s a great place to showcase and get consumers really excited about eyewear.”