MILAN — Prescription glasses are turning into fashion accessories, while sun products are banking on top quality protective lenses. These are two significant trends emerging from Mido 2018, the three-day Italian eyewear trade fair that closed here on Feb. 26.
Thin metallic, super-light frames were shown as acetate models alternated bold colors with transparent effects. Shapes were mostly rounded, except for the front of narrow and sharp silhouettes. Washed lenses that are colored but do not grant a total UV screen came mostly in different pastel shades, but blue tones were predominant. Unique patterns, such as flower designs, at times enriched the surface for a see-through effect, and crystal decorations made a bold fashion statement.
The Italian eyewear manufacturing industry reached sales of almost four billion euro in 2017, up 3.1 percent compared with the previous year and Mido reflected the optimism shown by Giovanni Vitaloni, the new president of ANFAO, the Italian Optical Goods Manufacturers’ Association. “It has been a good year for us, with exports of around 3.7 billion euros, up 3.2 percent, driven by Europe and the U.S. We expect similar growth for 2018, between 3 and 4 percent, and to improve on the Asian market, especially in China, now representing 5 percent of global export compared to 1 percent four years ago.”
This edition of Mido edition beat all the records with 58,000 visitors, a 4.9 increase; 1,305 exhibitors, about 100 more than 2017, and covering 52,000 square meters, a 5 percent expansion.
The whole scenario is facing an epochal change with the almost completed fusion between the Italian Luxottica and the French Essilor, which will give birth to an unprecedented integration between the world of frames and lenses. According to Vitaloni, this is a sort of guideline for the industry: “It’s a turning point for the business, no matter how big or small. The importance of lenses, and in particular of prescription ones, is strategic these days.”
Massimo Renon, Marcolin Group ceo, said consumers are demanding when it comes to lenses and technology in the sun segment, too. Former Marcolin ceo Giovanni Zoppas is now ceo of Thelios, the new joint venture between LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Marcolin, which unveiled Céline models. The year 2017 “was very positive for Marcolin with sales of 469 million euros, up 6 percent at current exchange, and a margin of 55 million euros,” Renon said. “We expect to grow organically in 2018 with our existing brands’ portfolio and next April we will announce a new joint venture in Latin America. Asia is one of our main targets, and for this reason, we are creating a local creative team to deal with the Asian fit’s peculiarities, varying from South Korea to China or Japan. As for the brands, Tom Ford and Guess are both constantly increasing their turnover, but we think Swarovski, Moncler and Ermenegildo Zegna have a huge potential, too.” Marcolin benefits from the fact that both Tom Ford and Guess renewed their license agreements ahead of time until 2029 and 2025, respectively.
Safilo Group is in a transition moment after the loss of the Gucci license, which is now produced by Kering Eyewear. “The full-year annual results will be approved by the board of directors on March 13, but preliminary figures indicate that 2017 sales were 1.04 billion euros, declining by 194 million euros at constant currency compared to 2016,” said outgoing ceo Luisa Delgado, whose last day at Safilo was Feb. 28. “Without Gucci, we lost about 155 million euros in sales, but we also had delivery problems, due to the implementation of the new Order-to-Cash IT system in Padua, Italy. Finally, after three exceptional years for Dior, the brand performed at a more average pace,” she added. President Eugenio Razelli explained that “there will be no new licenses in 2018 because we want to focus on what we already have in our portfolio. We strengthened our prescription range since there is a significant change going on. Optical glasses are turning into accessories: people are getting more than one and choose them according to their mood.”
Luxottica, whose sales last year totaled 9.15 billion euros, has been investing in digital innovation and the evolution of e-commerce. Proprietary brand Ray-Ban launched the optical segment with the most iconic sun models available for graduated lenses marked with the logo.
“We have a double celebration this year,” said Barbara De Rigo, marketing director of house brand De Rigo. “This is the 40th anniversary of the company and the 140th of Lozza, the oldest Italian eyewear brand owned by De Rigo. We launched a limited edition of Lozza’s Zilo model in full titanium frame and Barberini crystal polarized lenses in 140 pieces in gold and 140 in silver. We are just waiting to complete some bureaucracy steps to start our De Rigo Heart Foundation officially. Our goal is to support education starting from our region.” De Rigo revenues grew to 429 million euros in 2017, compared to 413 million in 2016. “We performed well, but not as much as we expected,” said Maurizio Dessolis, executive vice president. “Political tensions in South Korea had an impact on tourism and our business consequently. Other Asian countries slowed down, due to their weak currency, like China, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand. Still, we managed to compensate the effects of this strong euro. There will be no new licenses in 2018. We are committed to all our brands, with a special focus on Converse, which we started to distribute worldwide.”
Marchon may announce a couple of new licenses later on this year. The U.S. company showed at Mido, and senior vice president of global licensing, marketing and design Thomas Burkhardt said the company is “considering a new acquisition, as well as a new licensing opportunity, which could be disclosed in 2018. In the meantime, we are delighted with our performance last year as we achieved all of our business goals in 2017 and we are very positive about the year ahead.” In particular, he singled out the Longchamp line launched in September, which “has by far exceeded our original launch projections.” He also highlighted “the exciting development of the Calvin Klein 205 West 39 NYC luxury optical collection and the first wave of Raf Simons’ designed styles for the Calvin Klein main label.” Mexico and Brazil are attractive markets for Marchon, like Turkey where the company recently acquired a majority stake in its previous distributor in Turkey.
Italia Independent ceo Giovanni Carlino was confident about the future of the company founded by Lapo Elkann, despite a tough 2017, with revenues falling 6 percent to 25.9 million euros and a capital increase of five million euros that was recently announced. “We worked hard to improve and reorganize ourselves. We almost completed this process, and we feel ready for a global relaunch,” Carlino said. “The U.S., South Korea and Japan are on our radar.”
Elkann underscored the relevance of high-end collaborations such as with Adidas Originals, Hublot and Juventus, which he defined “strategic partners.” The company has just unveiled the first two models created together with Rossignol. “In August, there will be a further step in our partnership with Pharrell Williams and his line Billionaire Boys Club, where eyewear might be completed with some apparel. Pharrell and I share the same vision: We both strive to send a positive message to the world,” Elkann said.
Independent companies such as Nicodesign, which is Anfao’s Vitaloni’s daily business with the brand Vanni, also exhibited at Mido. “Despite the big groups, there is still a place for these kind of companies, as long as genuine creativity and advanced technological solutions drive them,” he said.
Blackfin’s growth is quite impressive when considering that in 2007 it was having struggling as a supplier for other brands. In 10 years, ceo Nicola Del Din turned Blackfin into an expert for optical titanium frames. “In 2017 we reached sales of 10 million euros, up 32 percent,” said chief financial officer Giancarlo Recchia.
New York-based Moscot is a family business run with a global perspective. “Throughout the world, there is still a 50 percent of independent opticians looking for highly curated brands like us,” said creative director Zack Moscot. “We opened a store inside Chelsea Market in New York. Peculiar locations are essential to us, so we are looking for the right ones to increase our presence in Europe,” added ceo Harvey Moscot.
Bruno de Felice moved from Naples to Mykonos, where he opened his eyewear boutique Kopajos. “We have a very selected distribution, though most of our business comes from the Greek boutique I opened after I launched Kopajos in 2013. We cut the lenses in Mykonos where we assemble the frames coming from my old lab in Naples. Customers come to us for extremely customized products.”
Chimmm and Georgesband are two different brands both created by Asian designers. Simon Chim is based in Hong Kong and produces top-quality glasses in China. “At first people were prejudiced about us, but we are a premium line with lots of creativity,” Chim said. George Park was born in South Korea and lives in Milano where he designs his eyewear handcrafted in his native country with small, sophisticated details coming from the music world. “This is my way to express my passion for rock,” he explained.