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Safilo to Relaunch Carrera

Iconic sunglasses brand to hit stores Friday.

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Carrera, the eyewear brand popularized in decades past by the likes of Steve McQueen, Yoko Ono and Don Johnson, is making a comeback.

Safilo, which acquired the 52-year-old Austrian company Carrera Optyl in 1996, has relaunched the Carrera brand and is bringing it to the U.S.

“Carrera is one of the most significant brands in the sunglass industry,” said Safilo USA president and chief executive Claudio Gottardi, who is also ceo of Solstice Sunglass Boutiques, which has 141 stores in the U.S. and one store in Australia. “It was the brand worn by celebrities and it was a significant sports brand.”

In the Sixties, Carrera was one of the first to introduce shield sunglasses that became prevalent among many brands in the Nineties. Gottardi, who is particularly passionate about this project, said the idea to relaunch the brand came four years ago when he became aware that people from Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Milan were buying vintage Carrera frames on eBay.

Safilo has revamped four styles that come in 26 different color options. The oversize, shieldlike sunglasses are meant for women and men. So far, celebrities such as Kanye West, Usher, Paris Hilton, Debra Messing and Victoria and David Beckham have worn them.

Safilo owns the original molds from which the Carreras were made and used them in the new project. The Italian eyewear group launched the brand in Italy, France and Spain in April 2007, and further expanded European distribution in October.

“Generally speaking, these kinds of trends — when they explode into Southern Europe, they expand into Asia and America within a year,” Gottardi said.

The Carrera line will hit 95 Solstice boutiques on Friday. There is also a guerrilla marketing campaign in the works that includes outdoor and print advertising and public relations efforts to boost brand awareness in the U.S.

The sunglasses will retail for $150 and, despite the sluggishness of the U.S. economy, Gottardi forecasts no price resistance. “What we’ve seen is that the eyewear business in general is more resilient than the fashion business,” he said.

Gottardi said the brand’s business already has doubled since its European relaunch, and he anticipates Carrera’s sales to be in the “few tens of millions of dollars.”

The distribution for Carrera will widen to other sunglass specialty stores and department stores in time for the holiday season.

Safilo also produces eyewear for the likes of Gucci, Christian Dior and Giorgio Armani.�

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