MILAN — If the Formula 1 cars and simulators in the foreground were any indication, eyewear makers here are ready to step on the gas, right out of the pandemic era.
With an eye on inflation and catering to the declining vision of a digital-native generation steadily in view, exhibitors at the three-day trade show Mido were optimistic about 2023, despite an uncertain macroeconomic outlook.
Mido, which closed on Monday, registered a 60 percent rise in visitors to 35,000 versus 22,000 at the last edition held in May. More than 1,000 exhibitors showcased their spring 2023 collections, up from 660 exhibitors.
“We’re doing our best to minimize [the impact of] inflation on consumer prices, but it’s not easy to do. So far we have been able to absorb a large part of inflation by making an additional effort to maximize efficiencies internally. Going forward it will depend on how inflation will evolve and it’s not clear. It’s like trying to navigate COVID[-19],” said Chrystel Barranger, EssilorLuxottica president of wholesale EMEA.
According to preliminary data released by Istat, Italy’s statistics office, the nation’s economy shrank by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of last year from the previous three months, raising fears of recession. Energy, raw materials, transport, services, logistics and packaging “more than doubled on average compared to the pre-pandemic period,” according to Anfao, Italy’s association of eyewear manufacturers.
Industry leaders here believe that companies should take advantage of the weakened euro, to advance in key markets like the U.S.
Anfao said “in its main outlet market, the U.S., it [exports] will still be able to grow in value. A 6 to 8 percent rise is the forecast for the first half of 2023.”
Despite cost pressures, Marchon Eyewear’s president Thomas Burkhardt said the company is “optimistic” about the company’s performance in 2023.
“The U.S. business is strong and remains a key market for Marchon. EMEA, particularly the U.K., Italy and Germany are also performing strongly. The outlook for Asia has now improved, with COVID[-19] restrictions lifting and international travel resuming,” he added.
Marchon has been focused on covering as much of the inflation and supply chain-related cost increases through being more efficient within its internal processes. “That allowed us to keep price increases at roughly half the rate of inflation — keeping them at 3 to 4 percent across our offerings in the U.S. and EMEA,” Burkhardt said.
Overall, exports of Italian eyewear climbed 22.5 percent in 2022 versus 2021, to about 5 billion euros, helped by the post-pandemic recovery of sunglass exports, up 28.9 percent year-over-year.
Research and development in the vision care sector and the possibilities offered by new digital technologies were paramount throughout the fair.
EssilorLuxottica, which divided its space into four thematic areas — Committed to Vision, Advancing with Technology, Celebrating People and Beauty and 360 Expert Solutions — said optical represents around 75 percent of the entire market value.
During the fair, the company unveiled its latest iteration of its Varilux progressive lens — The Varilux XR series — at Mido and at the new EssilorLuxottica Experience Center on Via Tortona 35. Invented in 1959, Varilux is the leading progressive lens brand worldwide. Powered by behavioral artificial intelligence, Varilux XR series is the first eye-responsive progressive lens creating instant sharpness even in motion.
Publicly listed on the Paris Stock Exchange, EssilorLuxottica generated consolidated pro forma revenue of 21.5 billion euros in 2021. The company will release its full-year 2022 results on Feb. 23.
Off-site “exclusive” events also unfurled around town. At Milan’s Museum of Science and Technology, Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned Thélios met with clients in an expansive, curated space outfitted with bold offerings from its vanguard brands like Fendi, Celine, Loewe, Stella McCartney, Kenzo, Fred, Dior and Givenchy, many of which were fashioned with new logos to appeal to the new generations.
Givenchy’s Giv Cut model, first seen on singer Rosalía at the 2022 Met Gala, was on display. The company said the futuristic, ultra-lightweight Giv Cut is the first 3D-printed eyewear model now being produced for retail.
In a Liberty-era building in Milan’s upscale residential area, macarons were served and bubbly chilled while Switzerland-based Akoni Group drew clients to a luxury showcase of their latest Made in Japan designs. Akoni, which produces Balmain and Valentino’s couture eyewear in addition to its own line, also hosted a display at Mido.
“The goal is to work with brands elevating eyewear,” explained chief executive officer Rosario Toscano, who said venturing into eyewear is tricky for luxury brands today. The risk is going “mass market” if not executed with the right partner, he believes. “Japanese execute [eyewear manufacturing] with the highest level of craftsmanship,” he contended.
At the cozy floral bistro Fiori Bianchi Caffé in Milan, São Paulo-based atelier, Lapima eyewear introduced themselves to a small circle of journalists and tastemakers before showcasing its Vela collection at Mido. Influenced by the boats and sails of Brazilian coastal towns, each design is a play on duality between rigid geometric lines and the malleability of the natural fabrics with which they are made.
Husband-and-wife team Gustavo and Gisela Assis, a former retail entrepreneur and dancer, respectively, started their brand in 2016 with some old machinery picked up in flea markets, bolstered by the expertise of two veteran eyewear craftsmen. Since then, their surreal yet funky designs mirroring the natural wonders of Brazil and organic cellulose acetate silhouettes sculpted by hand have captivated A-listers like Anne Hathaway, Kristen Bell, Katy Perry and Cate Blanchett. “What sets us apart is that we are really the first independent Brazilian pioneer in eyewear,” Gustavo said.
Elsewhere, manufacturers put forth their latest innovations to cater to the world of competitive sport and racing.
To celebrate the renewal of the worldwide partnership between Web Eyewear and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake, the F1 show car was on display at Marcolin alongside the preview of the eyewear capsule dedicated to F1 pilots, consisting of two sunglasses and one optical model.
“What awaits us will be a 2023 full of initiatives, in which we wish to continue our growth path, both on ESG issues and with digital transformation in view,” Marcolin’s CEO Fabrizio Curci said in a statement.
Keeping up the pace, Safilo Group dedicated a corner to its latest Carrear|Ducati eyewear collection, with a Ducati Moto GP world champion show bike on display. Showing off its digital prowess, Safilo showcased its Digital Gallery, which allowed visitors to deep-dive into the contents of the brand’s new campaigns and explore special digital capsules.
The Padua, Italy-based company, which joined the Fashion Pact last year, insisted that sustainability continues to be a trend, as Safilo invests its efforts in developing and adopting eco-minded practices, as well as incorporating recycled and biogenic materials.
Safilo recently reported preliminary sales figures that surpassed the benchmark of 1 billion euros in 2022, up 11.1 percent compared with 2021.
As Marchon marks 40 years, the company is also embarking on an ambitious plan steeped in doing right by the planet and all people, including Marchon’s customers and employees alike, through its Eyes on Tomorrow program. The company is using more sustainable frames, lens and packaging solutions for customers, incorporating materials like Eastman Acetate Renew, Tenite Renew and Tritan Renew, responsible acetate, upcycled plastic and plant-based resin. Today, Marchon’s portfolio of frames are 25 percent sustainably made and plans to become 50 percent sustainable by 2025, Burkhardt said.
Longarone, Italy-based eyewear specialist De Rigo released its first collection for Barrow, the Italian brand devoted to digital natives that was launched in 2020 by a team of creative talents with an international background in fashion and the digital sphere. Pop art and cartoonish silhouettes and colors made for a bold debut collection.
De Rigo counts the U.S. as one of its key markets and launched the Gap eyewear collection last year. De Rigo’s executive vice chairman Maurizio Dessolis said the month of January started positively in most markets.
“It’s a positive signal, which gives hope that the impact of the looming recession may not be as deep as expected.”