MILAN — Giovanni Coffen Marcolin, founder of the Italian Marcolin eyewear firm, died Wednesday night in Belluno, Italy, at age 82, after a long illness.
Funeral services are to be held Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Parrocchia di San Vigilio in Vallesella di Cadore, Italy.
In 2011, the entrepreneur told WWD that he struck gold when he decided to experiment with product diversification and a brand new concept: gold laminated arms, which helped jumpstart the business he set up in 1961, in Domegge di Cadore. Until then, innovation mainly came on the frontal part of glasses and the arms were all in plastic.
Coffen Marcolin was only 16 in 1947 when he started working as a technician in an eyewear production laboratory. After 14 years, he decided to strike out on his own.
He gradually ventured from the production of components to sunglasses, as in the early Sixties, eyewear was mainly about ophthalmic glasses. He moved from working in the basement of his home to a manufacturing plant in nearby Vallesella di Cadore in 1967.
In 1968, Marcolin started selling in the U.S. and expanded in Europe in the Seventies. A joint venture in 1984 with Marchon Inc., a Calvin Klein licensee, allowed Marcolin to take a further leap forward, growing from 80 to 200 employees and reaching production of 1 million frames annually. The following year, the manufacturing plant moved to nearby Longarone, initiating the production of acetate frames.
In the Eighties, Coffen Marcolin’s sons Cirillo and Maurizio started working for the company, based in France and the U.S., respectively.
The founder’s passion for eyewear never waned, and the entrepreneur was known for regularly clocking in and out of his office overlooking the Dolomites in Longarone, Italy, even in his late years and until the sale of his company. He was also a skilled skier.
The firm went public in 1999, but was delisted following the acquisition by European private equity Pai Partners, which last December, through its indirectly controlled company Cristallo SpA, finalized the purchase of a majority stake in Marcolin for 207 million euros, or $273 million at average exchange rates.
Pai Partners currently controls 85 percent of the company, while the remaining shares are owned by brothers Diego and Andrea Della Valle, the Marcolin family and Antonio Abete.
Marcolin produces and distributes the eyewear collections of a number of international fashion labels, such as Tom Ford, Balenciaga, Montblanc, Roberto Cavalli, Tod’s, Swarovski, DSquared2, Diesel, 55DSL, Just Cavalli, Cover Girl, Kenneth Cole New York, Kenneth Cole Reaction and Timberland. The company also counts three house brands, including Marcolin, National and Web.