The De Rigo industrial complex in Longarone, Italy.

MILAN — Italian eyewear manufacturer De Rigo is launching its first charity project through its Fondazione De Rigo HEART — health, education and art for the youth — institution, which was established last year to mark the company’s 40th anniversary.

The initiative named “A Call from the HEART” addresses nonprofit associations in Italy, which are asked to submit projects aimed at promoting young individuals’ well being and intellectual development. The foundation pledges to donate 20,000 euros to the best project submitted by May 15 through the association’s web site.

“When we established the foundation, we set the goal to be charitable toward those institutions already supporting the youth. It felt just right and good to collaborate with the most active institutions in the country,” said the foundation’s president Barbara De Rigo, who also serves as marketing director of house brand at the eyewear company.

“The [De Rigo] family has been strongly committed to the establishment of the foundation in the spirit of giving back,” she added, noting the charity’s goal has been to promote a broad spectrum of opportunities for the younger generations, since the beginning.

The nonprofit’s philosophy also reflects that of the company, which has been actively supporting a number of welfare and social corporate responsibility activities addressing its employees.

For instance, through the De Rigo Lab project, the company’s employees have given lectures to high school students in the Veneto region, where De Rigo is based, aimed at “stimulating the youth to build their future,” said the company’s executive vice president Maurizio Dessolis.

In addition — also addressing the younger generations — the company has donated 50 scholarships to the most skilled children of its employees. First kicked off in Italy last September, Dessolis said the company will extend it globally to it’s around 3,500 workers in 2019.

Noting 70 percent of the company’s employees especially in production are women, Barbara De Rigo said, “Female workers are very important to us as a company, and also we’ve seen their dedication and commitment are often stronger than that of their male colleagues.”

To this end, in July the eyewear specialist will kick off a health-related initiative called “Amiche per la Pelle,” or Best Friends, pledging to offer free breast screenings during work shifts to female employees aged 40 to 50.

Dessolis underscored that the number of initiatives reflects the company’s “strong family values.” In 2005 the Longarone, Veneto-based company delisted from the New York Stock Exchange as “the founding family wanted to take back possession of all the shares to secure total freedom in its strategic choices,” the executive noted. Following the delisting the eyewear manufacturer boosted its retail network by taking over optical retailers General Optica in Spain; Portuguese Mais Optica; Opmar Optik in Turkey and by acquiring a 42 percent minority interest in U.K.-based Boots Opticians.

In 2018 De Rigo posted revenues of 427.3 million euros, down from 429.5 million euros the previous year. Dessolis attributed the weaker performance to currency fluctuations, especially in Turkey, Brazil and China, which he described as “well-performing markets.” At constant exchange rates, the company grew 1.1 percent in 2018 and the executive noted he expects a 5 percent increase in 2019.

A pair of Chopard sunglasses especially created for the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, manufactured by De Rigo.

A pair of Chopard sunglasses especially created for the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, manufactured by De Rigo.  Courtesy Photo.

The company serves as licensing partners for a number of international fashion brands including Chopard, Blumarine, Carolina Herrera, Trussardi, Furla and Converse, among others. Last February the company also introduced in London the first styles it developed for Mulberry after a licensing agreement for the global production and distribution of the British brand’s frames was signed in 2018. New licenses could see the light of day no earlier than 2020, Dessolis said. In addition De Rigo counts the Police, Lozza and Sting brands within its portfolio.

Although Europe still accounts for 60 percent of the company’s revenues with Spain, France, Italy and Germany representing the best performing countries, De Rigo is looking overseas, particularly to the U.S., which represent its second-largest market, generating 15 percent of sales. As a latecomer to the country, which De Rigo entered in 2016 by acquiring local distributor Rem — now renamed De Rigo Rem and based in Los Angeles — Dessolis said the company aims to double the market’s share over a five-year period.