NEW YORK — Eyewear companies set up their new collections at the Jacob K. Javits Center here last week for the Vision Expo East show. But the trends weren’t the only topic on companies’ minds. Eyewear industry leaders like Luxottica, Safilo and Marchon are closely monitoring the Trump administration’s comments on trade as the President looks to restore American manufacturing through potential import tariffs.
Executives said that while the U.S. does manufacture some eyewear, the country’s capabilities are too small to serve the entire market. It would take long-term planning and logistics to execute a Stateside shift, and still this would lead to a higher price point and potentially cramp consumption.
Marchon attributes half its business to the U.S. market. Said chief executive officer Nicola Zotta: “The [eyewear] manufacturing capabilities in the U.S. are very small. I don’t believe that you can build a manufacturing footprint on such short notice — other countries are already very far ahead. Opening a plant doesn’t solve the issue; it’s about additional costs and how those costs spread across the chain. It would mean a higher price point – I don’t think that [tariffs] would ultimately serve the goal the administration is trying to achieve.”
Safilo North American ceo Henri Blomqvist said: “We are not nervous, but we are following the situation. We do have a plant in Utah. If there would be any change, consumer prices would see an inflation — I don’t think that’s in the interest of anyone.”
Luxottica’s North America wholesale president Fabrizio Uguzzoni said of the developing situation: “We will see what happens. There are positives and negatives — there will be duties, but corporate taxes will be better. We just invested in our manufacturing footprint in North America, with manufacturing and distribution facilities in Orange County, Calif., and in Atlanta, Ga. So if the direction of the government goes that way, we have just invested and would continue to do so.”
At the Lafont booth, marketing director Matthieu Lafont said: “There is no true production of frames in the U.S. so what do they expect us to do?” The company — which manufactures product in its native France — is also monitoring the French election, where controversial candidate Marine Le Pen continues to gain traction. “What happened in November in the U.S. shows that anything can happen,” said Lafont.
At Marcolin, Stateside executives were not available for interview. U.S. chief executive officer Fabrizio Gamberini has departed. The company declined to comment on the reason or timing of his exit.
Marcolin’s global ceo Giovanni Zoppas commented by e-mail: “We will appoint a ceo for Marcolin USA Eyewear Corp. but we are not in a hurry: We have a great team in the U.S. and we will appoint a ceo only when we find the right one for a company like Marcolin that has great plans for the future.”
The executive wrote of Trump’s trade agenda: “The U.S. market is one of Marcolin’s key markets: for the size and as a trendsetter. That’s why we have always been investing a lot in it (consider the Viva acquisition and the organizational investment made).
“Like everybody competing in the free market, we are for the free market,” Zoppas added. “Nevertheless, we do not have any negative perception of the situation for the time being.”
Trends at the show mirrored those seen at Mido in Milan last month. Overall, large lens sizes, aviator shapes and metal frames continue to prove popular with consumers.
Marchon reported that the first eyewear collection from Raf Simons at Calvin Klein brought in an unprecedented amount of luxury doors for the brand. The company is now awaiting its meeting with recently installed Chloé creative director Natacha Ramsay-Levi.
Safilo said it has seen strong performance of its brand Carrera, particularly as oversize, Eighties-style aviators roll back into fashion. The label also introduced designs from its new Havaianas partnership. Luxottica’s blue-chip brand, Ray-Ban, continues to be its strongest performer.
At Marcolin, Tom Ford, Guess, Ermenegildo Zegna, a recently revised Moncler offering and Swarovski have been among its strongest performers.