Giorgio Armani sees plenty of room for expansion at A|X Armani Exchange.The designer has just launched a sunglasses line for the label under license with Safilo, but views this as only the beginning of other product categories for A|X Armani Exchange."Last November we announced our intention to expand the A|X Armani Exchange lifestyle, both in terms of product range and geographical distribution," said Armani. "Shoes, bags, watches, jewelry, fragrances and eyewear are all categories that can sensibly be added to the world of A|X Armani Exchange."Armani added the sunglass license seemed like the right choice to start with because the typical customer is such an avid wearer of sunglasses. No other licenses have been signed at this time, according to a spokesman at the firm.The A|X Armani Exchange sunwear line comes three years after the debut of the designer Giorgio Armani and diffusion Emporio Armani eyewear lines, also under agreement with Safilo. While those collections retail from $200 to $350 and from $150 to $200, respectively, this collection will range from $58 to $65 to appeal to a younger and more contemporary customer. Safilo anticipates that it will compete in the market with eyewear from Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and Ralph by Ralph Lauren, the latter of which Safilo will cease to have the license for in December. Polo Ralph Lauren has signed a 10-year licensing deal with Luxottica Group SpA for the design, production and worldwide distribution of prescription frames and sunglasses. A|X Armani Exchange, which was founded in 1991 and whose direct retail network and clothing collection is operated by a joint venture company owned by Giorgio Armani SpA and Como Holdings Inc., now runs 105 stores worldwide. Over the next three years, there are plans to double the size of the direct worldwide retail store network, with key markets including the U.S., the U.K., Brazil, Mexico, Japan, South Korea and China. There are also plans to expand its e-commerce business, which is currently only active in the U.S. A|X Armani Exchange has projected an 85 percent increase in revenues from $300 million at the end of 2005 to $550 million at the end of 2008.While Mark Ugenti, vice president of sales at Safilo, declined to offer sales expectations for the three Armani eyewear lines, Ed Jankowski, chief operating officer of Solstice Marketing Concepts, the privately owned parent company of Solstice Sunglass Boutique and its new lower-priced concept retail chain, SunSights by Solstice, which will carry A|X by Armani Exchange, said the potential is there. "If you combine the business I do with Giorgio Armani and Emporio Armani, it is already one of our top five brands for sales," said Jankowski. "Armani is such a strong brand with recognition worldwide. A|X is a great example of how we will be able to offer the brand at an approachable price point."The A|X Armani Exchange eyewear line is anticipated to begin distribution worldwide in A|X Armani Exchange freestanding stores this month. The collection will be shipped to retail chains like SunSights by Solstice, and selected department and specialty stores in the U.S. starting in January.The collection comprises 23 women's, men's and unisex styles that range from sport-inspired silhouettes to aviator, shield and oversized designs. Metallic treatments included palladium, dark ruthenium, brown bronze and light gold, while plastic tones span from black, tortoise and bone to vibrant hues like dusty blue and orange. "My design philosophy for the new sunglass collection really reflects the overall spirit of A|X Armani Exchange," said Armani. "It has an urban, contemporary design using innovative materials to create a fresh and sexy look that complements the clothing. I would particularly highlight the women's large and oversized styles as being a signature for the first collection."A|X Armani Exchange intends to support the launch of the eyewear collection with trade, consumer and Internet advertising, as well as counter displays in-store. An ophthalmics line may follow in the spring.
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