MILAN — After a flurry of eyewear licensing deals in the last year, many exhibitors at the Mido trade fair said they were focused on cultivating new lines and consolidating their brands — but watching for opportunities.
"Our strategy is not based on the number of brands in our portfolio, but on covering the market efficiently," said Luca Biondolillo, head of international communications for Italy's Luxottica Group, which recently signed deals with Tiffany & Co. and Stella McCartney. "That said, if an important brand came available at the right time and at the right price, then we would obviously be interested."
Most vendors said they were concentrating on their own lines. However, representatives of Italy's Marcolin and America's Marchon both said they had new licenses in the offing, without providing details.
The four-day show ended here on May 12.
Although the spiraling dollar and the slowdown in U.S. consumer spending undermined first-quarter eyewear sales this year, in some cases by double-digit decreases, many of those exhibiting at the Fiera Milano pavilions said they were upbeat about business for the rest of 2008.
Speaking in his capacity as Mido president on the eve of the fair, Vittorio Tabacchi, chairman of Italy's Safilo Group said: "Given the latest analyst assumptions, the worst is over for the eyewear sector."
A number of vendors reported at least modest growth and said there was a lot of opportunity in the sunglasses and optical markets, as consumers bought more eyewear more frequently.
"Many people now tend to use [eyewear] as they do shoes," said Laudomia Pucci, image director of Emilio Pucci.
This "accessorizing" was increasingly true in optical, where designers were taking inspiration from sun frames and adapting it to medical frames without infringing on functionality.
"Seasonality for sunglasses is beginning to spill over into optical frames, which are more accessible in terms of price," said Luxottica Group marketing director Fabio D'Angelantonio.
Demand for luxury sun frames priced around 400 euros, or $623 at current exchange rates, and over had not wilted despite economic conditions, vendors said. Sales of midmarket glasses have been under more pressure, although manufacturers said they were responding to it with creativity and color.
Luxottica-owned Ray-Ban presented a new collection of its Wayfarers that played with color contrasts, such as purple for the lens and burgundy for the arms, or white for the exterior of the frames and black for the interior. Capturing the imagination of all James Bond types, Marchon-licensed Calvin Klein Collection plans to launch men's and women's sunglasses with a USB key built into the frame.
In general, collections included reworkings of vintage styles in two-tone acetate. Shapes were larger and rounder than last year, particularly for women's luxury sun frames, where butterfly shades were common. Where metal was used, it was often combined with plastics and included technical composites such as titanium and nickel, and logos and Swarovski detailing were more discreet.
Italy's Visibilia SpA, which produces eyewear for brands such as Bluegirl, Blumarine, Emanuel Ungaro, Jeckerson, Laura Biagiotti, Mandarina Duck and Trussardi, presented its new collection for Irvine, Calif.-based label St. John for the first time at the fair, after initiating the license in January. St. John styles focused on elegant interpretations of classic forms, such as aviators with intricate openwork metal temples.
St. John eyewear is available exclusively in St. John boutiques in the U.S. and Japan, although Visibilia president Dan Emanuel Levi said he intended to extend distribution to U.S. department stores and St. John units in Russia and the Middle East in the second half of the year.
Visibilia said it had also signed an agreement with U.S. firm Legacie for the exclusive distribution in Europe of the Kata and bejeweled Leiber luxury eyewear lines. Levi said Visibilia would likely not be launching any new brands until the latter part of 2009.
"We will concentrate on consolidating what we already have," Levi said. "We don't want to have a list of brands out of our door but the right number of brands, happy to work with us. That is our philosophy."
After launching Emilio Pucci eyewear last year and Karl Lagerfeld in January, Marchon is set to launch Jil Sander later this year to help further penetrate international markets, chief executive officer Al Berg said.
"That continues our strategy of rounding off our European brand portfolio," Berg said, adding that Marchon was growing in all its markets worldwide and generating "very nice profit growth."Robert Schienberg, Marchon's senior vice president of global communications, said the company had two "big European brands in the pipeline" that he declined to name. Marchon also produces eyewear for Fendi, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and Nike.
Pucci revisited the company archives for inspiration for its collection, although "there's nothing nostalgic about it," said Laudomia Pucci, handling plastic sunglasses in two-tone purple acetate.
"Funnily enough, when we were putting together the collection, we got the idea that we had to be quite classic, but we have been using unclassic colors and shapes," she said. "Maybe because [eyewear] is becoming such an 'It' object in the fashion world, you have to be strong with it."
That was also true for Fendi, which said it was launching sunglasses to commemorate the 10th anniversary of its iconic Baguette bag. The frames, which were not on show at the Mido fair, come in 10 colors and are decorated on the inside with a cartoon illustration by Silvia Fendi, a spokesman said. The naïf pattern also is featured on the lining of the bags.
Fendi presented a $4,000 pair of white and black shades with mink-accessorized shades for luxury après-ski wear and optical frames with a cork inlay to complement the latest collection of shoes and bags.
In many cases, shape and material took precedent over color or decoration for luxury frames.
Tom Ford presented a collection of uberminimal large organic shaped sun and optical women's acetate frames in translucent tones. Meanwhile, Roberto Cavalli reined in his usual flamboyance with a more discreet selection of eyewear, still peppered with Swarovski crystal, but more sparingly.
Maurizio Marcolin, ceo of Marcolin, which produces eyewear for Tom Ford, Roberto Cavalli, Mont Blanc, Ferrari, Kenneth Cole, Timberland and Miss Sixty, among others, said shape was "more important" for luxury looks, whereas "you allow yourself to go crazy with color" for midrange frames.
Luxottica-licensed Versace and Dolce & Gabbana also presented frames, which typified a trend for symbols or more discreet logos.
Versace adorned the arms of some plastic frames with a glittering diamanté flower motif, while Dolce & Gabbana presented the face hugging black sunglasses as worn by Matthew McConaughey in the company's latest fragrance ad, which have the logo on the inside of the temples.Safilo, which has licenses with such brands as Giorgio Armani, Dior, Gucci, Valentino, Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent, showed predominantly vintage looks. Yves Saint Laurent presented a collection with its new lateral Y logo in metal worked into acetate frames, while Dior relaunched its voluminous Josephine sunglass model from the Seventies.
Financial analysts have speculated that Safilo's relationship with Gucci Group could have soured after the nonrenewal of the Stella McCartney license, which was snapped up by rival Luxottica. However, Safilo's Tabacchi dismissed that.
"The end of the Stella McCartney relationship will have no repercussions on the relationship with the maison," he said. "There remains an excellent relationship with PPR and especially with Gucci, with which we have collaborated for more than 15 years."
The 39th and next edition of the fair will run March 6-9 to be closer to Milan's shoe, leather and fur expos, following fashion week, in what organizers have labeled "a worldwide week of fashion accessories."
From Sept. 4-6 in 2009, Mido will also inaugurate a second event in Rome, dubbed Mido Business Forum, at the Italian capital's new exhibition complex near Fiumicino Airport.
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye