MILAN — “From trash to treasure.”
That is how Angelo Trocchia, chief executive officer of Safilo Group, and Boyan Slat, founder and ceo of The Ocean Cleanup, describe the virtuous circle created through the removal of plastic from the sea and the realization of high-quality products.
Joining forces with the Dutch nonprofit environmental organization The Ocean Cleanup, which develops advanced technologies to extract plastic pollution from the oceans, the Italian eyewear group is taking action to further commit to sustainability.
Safilo is producing the first sunglasses from recycled plastic in 25,000 units, but Trocchia expects that number to grow. “The first batch have already been sold, there is great interest in this project,” Trocchia told WWD.
The glasses are available exclusively on The Ocean Cleanup site at $199 and all proceeds will be reinvested in further removing waste from the Earth’s waters.
Trocchia said he was “fascinated” by this project, which was about 18 months in the making.
“At first it seemed like a mad idea, to collect such enormous quantities of material, but we started to work together and it’s important for our company to be a part of it,” continued the executive.
He underscored the challenges The Ocean Cleanup faces in collecting the plastic and creating the compound. The sunglasses are made with injected plastic derived from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, using an innovative upcycling process able to include types of plastic that have traditionally been more difficult to recycle, turning them into a high-quality and safe material.
Each pair of sunglasses is estimated to clean the equivalent of 24 football fields worth of the GPGP and, when every pair from the first batch is sold, that will equate to about 500,000 football fields of clean-up in the GPGP.
“The glasses are made entirely here in Italy,” Trocchia said proudly, underscoring the quality and design content of the final product. “One of Safilo’s undisputed strengths is the expertise built throughout more than 140 years to translate design into eyewear.”
In addition to its own brands Carrera, Polaroid, Smith and Safilo, the group produces and distributes eyewear for labels ranging from DB Eyewear by David Beckham, Missoni, Marc Jacobs and Moschino to Tommy Hilfiger, Under Armour and Levi’s. Safilo expects the exit of the Dior brand beginning Jan. 1, 2021, and the Fendi label beginning July 1 that same year.
Slat underscored how the collaboration with Safilo enables the creation of The Ocean Cleanup’s first product made from the trash collected in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. “The partnership with Safilo proved crucial in transforming the plastic we removed from the ocean into useful, durable products: these beautiful sunglasses. The proceeds from this product will help fund our mission, and we hope they serve as another way to increase global awareness of the urgent need to remove plastic from our aquatic ecosystems,” he noted.
A unique QR code that directly connects the user to background information about the product, the project and the specific place where the marine plastic pollution was removed will appear on each pair of glasses.
“I don’t want to oversell this, it’s a path toward sustainability that rests on three pillars: people, product and planet. We are aware of our impact on the environment and have started to employ eco-friendly, recyclable materials, paying attention to the planet,” Trocchia offered.
For example, Safilo in February introduced the patented Econyl regenerated nylon into its collections through a deal with Italian synthetic fibers and polymer firm Aquafil, marking the first time the eco-friendly material is being employed in the eyewear industry.
Econyl fiber is obtained through the regeneration and purification of plastic waste, including discarded fishing nets, carpets and fabric scraps. Tommy Jeans was the first brand within Safilo’s portfolio of licensed brands to embrace the green material but the eyewear manufacturer said it planned to extend its use to other labels.
Trocchia also provided an update on Safilo’s people pillar. He confirmed that the process for the sale of the business branch of the Martignacco production site, closed beginning July 1, 2020, was completed earlier this month, and that 181 workers, out of the 212 in force at the date of the sale, joined iVision Tech, another local eyewear maker, which is being relaunched.
“The sale of the Martignacco plant highlights the group’s commitment to optimize our production footprint and reduce the social impact of our decisions and represents a further important step in the strategy to recover a sustainable economic profile,” said Trocchia.
Safilo has been restructuring, realigning its industrial footprint to the new production scenario the company faces with the expected exit of the Dior, Fendi and Givenchy brands, following the decision in 2017 of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton to create a venture with Marcolin, called Thélios, for the production and distribution of eyewear collections.
As reported, Safilo offered a business update earlier this month, showing a rebound since July, an improved trend in sales, compared to the previous estimate of a moderate decline, and a more contained slowdown in the wholesale business. It cited continued recovery in the North American independent opticians’ market. Safilo also pointed to the strong progress of the Smith brand’s online business, as well as a greater-than-expected contribution deriving from the group’s direct-to-consumer business, in particular the recently acquired brands Blenders and Privé Revaux.
The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the months of April and May dragged down Safilo’s revenues in the first half, which fell 32.3 percent to 335.6 million euros compared with the same period last year.