Marchon Eyewear Inc. on Tuesday acquired sports performance eyewear brand Dragon Alliance. The purchase price was not disclosed.

This story first appeared in the May 2, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

According to Claudio Gottardi, president and chief executive officer of Marchon International, the company has been looking to expand its presence in the sports performance category since about 30 percent of all eyewear sold is either a sports driven product or produced by a sports brand.

“The sport business is a very important part of the eyewear industry, and in the last 10 to 15 years [has] proven that the male consumer especially is motivated by authentic sports eyewear and the use of credible authentic brands that have been proven in the field and in difficult conditions,” Gottardi said.

Marchon is currently the licensee of Nike’s eyewear, but it’s never owned a sports eyewear brand. The acquisition of Dragon Alliance means the company can now oversee testing, experimenting and working with athletes in the future development of product, something it’s never been able to do with Nike.

The 29-year-old Dragon Alliance, a former subsidiary of Oakley (it was excluded from the purchase when Luxottica acquired parent company Oakley in 2007), is a “powerhouse” on the West Coast and in Australia, as well as in the surf, snowboard and motocross worlds, Gottardi said. However, due to a lack of substantial financial backing and the organization to develop international distribution, it has yet to make a strong global push.

Gottardi, who said the sports performance brand’s business is in the “few tens of millions of dollars,” projects this number easily climbing into the “triple digits [of] millions of dollars” in the next five years. In the first year alone, he hopes to see double-digit growth, adding that he would be “surprised if we can’t double the business” by 2014.

“We strongly believe that through Marchon, who has a network in every major city — we can give them everything they need to develop very rapidly, from logistics, to support, to marketing to product development and design,” Gottardi said, adding that Will Howard, Dragon Alliance’s ceo, and a group of managers will still own a minority stake in the company.

In addition to acquiring Dragon Alliance, Marchon has in the past 16 months unveiled licenses with Valentino, Ferragamo, Nine West, and Chloe. Gottardi said Marchon’s business increased more than 30 percent in the first four months of 2012 year-on-year — accelerated by the launch of these new collections. He doesn’t expect this rate of growth to continue for the remainder of the year however. “[Growth] will likely be at a 20 percent rate by the end of the year,” he said.

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