By  on May 15, 2007

PADOVA, Italy — The Safilo Group has signed a five-year license agreement with Balenciaga for worldwide production and distribution of its eyewear.

Vittorio Tabacchi, chairman of the Safilo Group, revealed the accord at a press conference at the company's headquarters here. Tabacchi said three models from the French fashion house's eyewear line had a preview during Balenciaga's spring-summer runway show in Paris last year.

Infused with slick details courtesy of the brand's ready-to-wear designer, Nicolas Ghesquière, the eyewear collection also will feature elements of Balenciaga's sunglass models from the Seventies.

Set to be unveiled in October, the first Balanciaga eyewear collection will solely feature women's sunglasses. Prescription eyewear and a men's line eventually will be added, said Tabacchi.

"The collections will remain small, every piece will be numbered and styles will change every three to four months," he said.

Safilo's latest license rounds out the portfolio of Gucci Group brands already produced and distributed by the firm, including Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Bottega Veneta. Safilo also makes the Giorgio Armani, Dior and Marc Jacobs eyewear lines.

"The deal further solidifies our relationship with the Gucci Group," said Tabacchi.

Last week, the Safilo Group reported that net profits rose 22.4 percent to 20.8 million euros, or $28.1 million at current exchange, for the first quarter ended March 31. Consolidated sales grew to 341.4 million euros, or $461.9 million — a 13 percent increase compared with the three-month period ended March 31, 2006.

The "record results" were expected to level off for the remainder of the year, said Claudio Gottardi, newly appointed chief executive officer of the group. Citing the depreciating value of the U.S. dollar, Gottardi said he expected the company's sales to close the year 7 to 8 percent up on last year's turnover.

"But we will continue to have significant organic growth, particularly in the European and Asian markets, which performed well over the past year," said Gottardi.

Sales in the U.S. were unaffected by the firm's loss of the Ralph Lauren license last year, added Tabacchi, who said American sales were bolstered by new eyewear deals with A|X Armani Exchange, Banana Republic and Marc by Marc Jacobs."It's a particularly satisfying result because it was reported that, once we lost the Ralph Lauren license, we would have a drastic drop in 2007's sales," he said. "Not only have we not suffered from this loss, but we've recovered sales and are on track for a more profitable future."

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