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WITH AGE COMES WISDOM AND EXPERIENCE, BUT GROWING OLDER CAN ALSO MEAN losing the hip quotient. After celebrating its 90th anniversary last year, Italian eyewear brand Persol found itself with an interesting challenge: how to capitalize on its storied history and remain current. “This brand has so much of its roots in the past, sometimes it’s difficult to clear the way into the future,” says Fabio D’Angelantonio, global marketing director for Italy’s Luxottica Group SpA, which also owns Ray-Ban and has licenses with Chanel and Prada. “We wanted to bring the Persol heritage to a new stage.” So the Turin, Italy-based brand that prides itself on its old-school hand-craftsmanship — some glasses take six days to make — responded by reinvigorating its brand and launching two new collections that fuse its past and future. To introduce its first collection, Suprema, the line delved into its library of styles and reintroduced three popular frames and slightly tweaked other classic looks. Pieces retail for $310, or $360 with polarized lenses; optical frames sell for $230. It also created the more contemporary Design collection, which presented a modernized version of its most iconic styles with technical advances, including a unisex style and a more feminine pair with softer, rounded frames and arms, for $290; $340 with polarized lenses.
At the same time, the brand continues to build upon its connections within the film industry (actor Daniel Craig, for example, wore Persol sunglasses in “Casino Royale,” while Steve McQueen had donned the shades in the original “The Thomas Crown Affair”) by partnering with the International Rome Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival.
The company gives the Persol Style Award to a winning director at each event, and also participates in international
design competitions. The brand is not out to only interest celebrities; it reaches out to directors and cinematographers as well, D’Angelantonio says. “It’s a way for us to be closer to their life, to be present in a whispering way. We don’t try to over celebrate. We try to whisper in the right moment to the customer.” One of those right moments came when Craig donned Persol style 2720 as James Bond. “That was kind of the cherry on top of the cake,” D’Angelantonio says, noting that the brand sold out of 1,000 similar limited edition styles in one day. Originally designed to satisfy the demands of pilots and race-car drivers who required comfort, protection and optimum vision, the Persol line has always stressed substance and style. The company is shooting to reach a sales percentage of 60 percent men and 40 percent women by continuing to present more sophisticated, feminine styles, some of which may be included in new pieces set to be released in November in time for the holiday rush. Craftsmanship, meanwhile, will always play a key role in the brand’s identity, with some styles undergoing 18 to 25
handmade steps. “It’s incredible how we’re still produced this way,” D’Angelantonio says.
This story first appeared in the July 21, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.