Athletes with fashion brands

MILAN — Italia Independent has partnered with soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in an exclusive, five-year global license for the development and production of eyewear under the player’s CR7 brand.

“Today is a historic date both for myself and for Italia Independent: closing this deal for a CR7 eyewear license is extremely important for the growth of our company,” said Italia Independent founder and creative director Lapo Elkann.

“Cristiano is already known worldwide as a football legend who has scored over 700 goals, won five Champions Leagues and been awarded with five Ballon d’Ors, but he is first and foremost an exceptional human being,” added Elkann, praising the 34-year-old player, who is captain of Portugal’s national soccer team and forward for Juventus F.C., the Italian soccer club historically managed by the Agnelli family. Elkann is a longtime supporter of the team and his cousin, Andrea Agnelli, is the current chairman of the club.

“I can’t wait to get started on this project together, and I am sure that we will embrace the task with both passion and perseverance, two values that Cristiano embodies better than anyone I know. I am confident that we will work on a number of exciting projects with both Cristiano and his exceptional professional team in the future,” concluded Elkann.

“I have always been passionate about sunglasses and always wanted to have my own eyewear range, and I am really excited to be collaborating with Italia Independent on this project,” echoed Ronaldo. “I am very careful on details and I always work hard to achieve perfection in everything that I do,” continued the athlete, underscoring that the project has been in the pipeline for the past year.

The first CR7 eyewear collection will be officially unveiled during the upcoming edition of Mido, the Milan-based eyewear trade show that runs Feb. 29 to March 2. The line will then hit leading opticians’ shelves and select e-commerce platforms globally starting from spring.

Marco Cordeddu, Italia Independent’s chief executive officer, who was appointed last October, also sees the deal as strategic for the company’s future growth.

“Having a brand in our portfolio that bears the same name as one of the greatest football champions of all time is a great honor for our company. CR7 put a lot of trust in us with this challenging project, and I can assure that Italia Independent will work hard to achieve the results and the international market visibility it so deserves. Both the traditional sales channels and the digital ones will be ready to distribute the CR7 sunglasses collection at a worldwide level in order to please Cristiano’s incredibly strong fan-base,” Cordeddu said.

Ronaldo is one of the sport’s hottest personalities, considering the success of his CR7 brand as well as his personal social media reach, which counts 200 million followers on Instagram, more than 122 million followers on Facebook and 82.4 million followers on Twitter.

Currently retailing in more than 70 countries, CR7 is a full lifestyle brand, including, among others, fragrances under license; underwear developed with Danish underwear manufacturer JBS; footwear produced with Portugal Footwear, and a denim line developed by Uniti Fashion, a sourcing and manufacturing company founded in South Africa.

Ronaldo has also collaborated with a number of brands, fronting advertising campaigns for the likes of Emporio Armani, Tag Heuer and Jacob & Co. in the past.

Italia Independent was founded in 2007 by Elkann, who retains a 53.59 percent stake in the company.

As reported, last year investment fund Creative Ventures Srl acquired 25.44 percent of Italia Independent, which is listed on the AIM Alternative Market of Capital segment of the Milan Stock Exchange. Creative Ventures Srl is controlled by the fund Talent EuVeca through AVM Gestioni Sgr and investment fund Centurion Global Fund Sicav.

Nine months after the transaction, the company’s board approved a new, four-year strategy aimed at increasing the firm’s competitiveness. The plan forecast revenues increasing to 42 million euros by 2023, including cuts in costs and operational savings amounting to 1.7 million euros starting from this year. The estimate was based on the plan to develop new products, expand the business to new markets and implement strategic partnerships.

In 2015, Italia Independent was hit by financial troubles, which required the company to restructure by reducing costs and reinforcing the product offering. To support the relaunch of the firm, Elkann and his brother, John Elkann, who is president of FCA, increased the company’s capital by 15 million euros in December 2016.

In 2018, Italia Independent continued to operate at a loss, although reduced compared with 2017. In the 12 months ended Dec. 31, 2018, the loss amounted to 6 million euros, compared with 9.7 million euros the previous year. Revenues fell 12.2 percent to 19.3 million euros, due to the sale of nonstrategic assets, compared with 22 million euros at the end of the previous year.