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Kering has denied allegations that various sunglasses it labels and advertises as “Made in Italy” are fully or partly “Made in China.”

Selima Optique Inc., a luxury sunglass and eyewear boutique with several stores in New York City and France, last week hit Kering, its subsidiary Kering Eyewear and its executives Antonio Bortuzzo and Ken Liming, with a proposed class action lawsuit in New York federal court alleging sunglasses manufactured by the company are falsely advertised as “Made in Italy.”

A Kering spokeswoman denied the allegations in their entirety, and said “Kering Eyewear luxury products are made in Italy and are labeled in compliance with all applicable law.”

The boutique, which purchases eyewear from Kering wholesale, pointed to brands like Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Brioni, Tomas Maier and Stella McCartney.

While Selima accused Kering of “egregiously” using “Made in Italy” labels, the boutique said “at best” all the various parts of the sunglasses are made in China and then shipped to Italy for assembly.

Under Italy’s 2009 “Made in Italy Law,” in order to be labeled as made in the country, a product has to be entirely made in Italy, including planning, manufacturing and packaging. Companies are also are not allowed to “lead a consumer to believe that the product or goods originate from Italy… without their being accompanied by specific, clear indications as to foreign provenance or origin,” according to the complaint.

“Wholesale customers and retail consumers, who pay a premium for Italian made products especially those carrying designer labels such as Yves Saint Laurent, are falling victim to a deceitful bait-and-switch scheme by defendants, who are selling eyewear that are actually manufactured in China, while bearing the stamp ‘Made in Italy,’” Selima argued. “Defendants’ misleading packaging and labeling are exacerbated by an overall marketing campaign, online and in print, that mislead wholesale customers as well as the consuming public to believe that their products are made in Italy.”

Selima also manufactures and sells its own branded line of eyewear and often collaborates with design houses for special editions, and so claims that it’s not only been damaged by Kering’s actions as a wholesale customer, but as a competitor as well.

The boutique said it first became aware of Kering’s alleged manufacturing practice in October, when it received a package of YSL eyeglass frames and its head of merchandising noticed one side of the frame was stamped “Made in Italy” and the other was marked “Made in China.”

Selima contacted Kering about the stamp, and the company attributed it to a manufacturing mistake, saying the part of the frame with the China label was meant for a style of Puma sunglasses, which are made in China.

“[Kering] did not explain why a temple that is stamped ‘Made In China’ belonging to a pair of sunglasses that is purported to be made in China would inexplicably end up in an Italian factory,” Selima noted.

Although the boutique admitted that it would like to continue purchasing from Kering in the future, it said without court action, there is “no way to determine… whether the products sold by defendants are genuinely made in Italy.”   

Based in Veneto, Italy, Kering Eyewear was created in 2016 in order for the French conglomerate to control the entire value chain of its eyewear business, previously operated under a licensing model.

Selima is also accusing Kering of unfair competition, deceptive trade practices, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment. It’s also looking to certify a class of wholesale customers and competing eyewear retailers to pursue unspecified damages.

In March, Kering Eyewear said it would take over the development, production and distribution of Cartier eyewear, marking its first license deal with a brand outside the group.

As part of the strategic partnership, Cartier parent Compagnie Financière Richemont took a 30 percent stake in Kering Eyewear. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Kering Eyewear also absorbed the Manufacture Cartier Lunettes plant in Sucy-en-Brie, France.

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