MILAN — Eyewear has become one of the priorities for Bally as the storied company is expanding its range of categories, investing in its men’s and women’s bags as well as in its footwear and other accessories under a new owner, the Chinese giant Shandong Ruyi. To wit, Bally’s chief executive officer Frédéric de Narp and Massimo Renon, ceo of Marcolin Group, talked to WWD during the Bally presentation at Milan Fashion Week to discuss the new eyewear collection licensed to the Italian eyewear manufacturer.
The line will be launched globally in Bally boutiques in 2019, including franchised stores and travel retail units, as well as in the optical channel only in the Asia Pacific region, Greater China, Korea, Japan and Oceania. It will then be rolled out in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2020, followed by America in 2021. Three models were unveiled in Milan, a few selected pieces will be presented at Silmo, running Sept. 28- Oct. 1 and the full collection will be showcased at Mido in February.
The license with Marcolin, whose portfolio of licensed brands includes Tom Ford, Moncler, Dsquared2, Tod’s, Swarovksi and Diesel, was inked this spring and runs up to December 2023, with the possibility of a renewal for another four years.
Bally and Marcolin made contact around one year ago, said de Narp. “We realize that in the world of eyewear you need a balance between a partner that believes in and understands your company and luxury, and that has access to worldwide quality distribution,” he explained. “That’s what we knew we would find in Marcolin;…What we express is that Bally is the rebirth of this company, the most important shoemaker in history, the second oldest brand in the fashion world, born in 1851, with incredible archives, but it has required new energy, a new vision, a new creative collective, a new strategy. And this is what we articulated.”
Both executives were upbeat and galvanized by the partnership. “Today to me is a very special day, honestly, because we are at the eve of an entire deployment of this company, Bally is really expanding, and we are very proud as we present the new collection for the first time in years as a complete collection: for men and women, accessories and shoes,” said de Narp. “And to disclose this long-term partnership with Marcolin. It is very important and special because through this we will have more visibility and showcase this sporty/retro flair, from the Seventies and Eighties with a modern spin, with this quiet confidence that I like to say about Bally, that’s fully expressed through the eyewear with Marcolin.”
“When we met Frédéric and the team a year ago, we were very surprised by the energy we got from the team and we see the same energy in the brand today,” said Renon. “So we wanted to transmit the energy from the brand and combine it with the history and heritage of the brand…1851 I think it’s a long time, a lot of changes.” Renon emphasized how Bally was one of the first luxury brands to set shop in Asia in the Eighties. For this reason, he believes “Asia is a fantastic opportunity. Bally has this strong presence and brand awareness in China. I have been told that in Chinese primary schools they teach A like apple and b like Bally to children learning the alphabet. So we wanted to benefit from this fantastic brand awareness and transmit into the product the heritage of the brand, the modernity that Frédéric is putting into the company to give a strong spin and I think the collection reflects this.”
Bally has been a pioneer in its field. In 1870 it already had five stores around the world and it was one of the first to enter China in 1986, according to de Narp.
The executives said that the first feedback on the new collection was very positive across markets. Renon explained that the launch was first focused in China because “this part of the world has been one of the strongest markets for Bally in the past. So we’ll start form Asia, move East and then reach all the markets by the beginning of next year. At the beginning of the year, we’ll have the full collection, male and female, 12 models in sunglasses and eight models in optical frames.”
As the eyewear industry changes, with Kering setting up its own eyewear company, Luxottica merging with Essilor and the new venture created between LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Marcolin called Thélios, Renon believes “it’s a world of opportunities for us,” and that because of the consolidation in the future, probably customers “will want to have strong service and support from their suppliers, the ones that can benefit with partnering with one of the best brands, and Bally is one of them. For us, its very important to go to the market with a value proposition which is full and complete for our customer. We don’t go direct to consumers, we go through wholesalers, retail chains, department stores, optical shops and we are to make the customer feel Marcolin is the partner for the future. I believe in this complex industry with the balanced portfolio it has, it’s one of the ”leading companies for the next next five to 10 years for sure.”
Bally’s eyewear collection was previously produced by L’Amy and it is understood Marcolin will provide more international exposure. That said, both executives emphasized the importance of a collective and creative team. “At Bally, we have three head designers and one brand director that are working together to give birth to the collection and I believe in this co-creation element. This is the way we work at Bally, and we felt that with Marcolin we could develop this co-creation,” said de Narp. Moreover, Bally’s brand director Morad Tabrizi has an affinity for eyewear that precedes Bally and he loves the product, and this is a strong point, he added. “These partnerships work if you really care and if the partnership becomes central to you. If we become a little brand for Marcolin, it doesn’t work or if eyewear becomes a little category for us, it doesn’t work. We really have to synchronize, so that we make space for Marcolin to express their talent. For me, they’re the best in the world and totally fitting Bally for the eyewear expansion.” Expanded and dedicated spaces in Bally’s renewed flagships will highlight the new eyewear collections. Eyewear is also included and integrated in all the brand’s photography and marketing to underscore its relevance.
De Narp shared that Bally is “the only brand from the fashion and shoe industry that does more than 50 percent of its business with accessories, so yes, we are mastering leather, we are mastering shoes, but we are even stronger in our accessories today and eyewear is an accessory.” While not disclosing sales figures, the executive said Bally has 700 point of sales today and expects increased visibility through the deal with Marcolin. “We are very glad to be, I think, the second travel retail brand in the world of fashion in terms of presence with 130 point of sales in travel retail only, which is a very positive point in the eyewear — you really want to serve the clients when they travel around the world.” The increasing importance of travel retail is not lost on Bally and Marcolin, which produces one style that is exclusively dedicated to customers in that distribution channel.
Renon said the acceptance from clients so far was “very good and the sales forecast was almost doubled.”
“It’s very exciting, because we felt we were lacking in the eyewear department, which for a lifestyle brand it’s essential to get the complete look,” said de Narp. “Probably the two companies met at the right moment, we were both expanding, we were both growing, with new people, new projects…We believe it’s going to be a success also because of this.”