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WWD Milestones issue 03/23/2009

Calalzo di Cadore, the first industrial complex for lens and frame manufacturing in Italy, is founded by Giovanni Lozza and the Frescura brothers in Pieve di Cadore, a town in the province of Belluno in the Veneto region of Italy.

This story first appeared in the March 23, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Guglielmo Tabacchi, Safilo’s founder, is born in Solvay, N.Y.

The Tabacchi family moves back to Italy to start a business in the Veneto region.

Hollywood stars like Harold Lloyd make round and elongated-shaped glasses fashionable.

Guglielmo Tabacchi acquires the historic manufacturer Calalzo di Cadore and founds Safilo SpA. Safilo is an acronym for Società Anonima Fabbrica Italiana Lavorazione Occhiali, which loosely translates to “Italian eyewear manufacturing company.”

Manufacturing facilities on the Molinà River are updated with Pelton turbines, and the production area and offices are expanded. During the German occupation, the company is forced to make only one model of glasses, and the entire output is sent to Germany.

Production and sales networks are reorganized, and sales are boosted in postwar Milan and Rome. Trends include large American-style glasses and sport-inspired protective eyewear.

The company invests in producing sunglasses, leading to an increase in exports and greater competition with French and German producers.

Safilo Group opens a plant in Santa Maria di Sala, in the province of Venice, where it transfers its administrative offices and entire production of cellulose acetate frames — the use of celluloid as a raw material for making frames was abandoned at this point.

The Pieve di Cadore plant is enlarged. Key technological innovations like the Elasta hinge, patented by Safilo, become successful.

The group acquires the Padua Service Center.

Guglielmo Tabacchi dies. His sons Giuliano and Vittorio take over the company’s operation.

Distribution, sales and administrative departments are transferred to Padua.

The first international sales office opens in Belgium. Others follow in the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Germany and France.

Consumers demand lighter, tougher, more comfortable and state-of-the-art sunglasses.

Friulplastica is founded in Martignacco, in the province of Udine, to supply the group’s production plants with metal components. Safilo Canada is created.

Safilo begins producing eyewear for key brands when it acquires Optifashion, which at the time had licenses with Gianfranco Ferré and Ferrari, among others.

Safilo acquires complete control of Starline Optical, one of the U.S.’ most important eyewear companies, which had been the sole distributor of Safilo products since 1962. This unit in turn becomes Safilo USA.

Safilo purchases the Friulan eyewear company Oxsol. Safilo is listed on the Milan Stock Exchange.

The group’s new headquarters opens in Padua; all offices including design move there. Gucci licenses Safilo.

Safilo opens divisions in the U.K., Greece, the Netherlands, Austria, Australia, South Africa, Japan and Brazil.

The Longarone factory becomes one of the eyewear industry’s most advanced production facilities, making metal, aluminum, and titanium frames.

Safilo obtains the Pierre Cardin license.

Safilo’s Far East branch opens in Hong Kong. Safilo acquires the Diesel license. The Oxydo brand is launched.

Safilo purchases Smith Sport Optics Inc., an American sports eyewear company founded in 1965. At the time of the purchase, Smith had 50 percent of the ski eyewear market. The company acquires Austrian Carrera Optyl, which has production units in Austria and Slovenia.
The Galleria Guglielmo Tabacchi opens at the group’s headquarters in Padua. Christian Dior licenses Safilo. The Blue Bay collection is launched.

Safilo obtains licenses for Max Mara, Valentino, Nine West and Fossil.

21st Century
Branches open in Europe and the Far East — including Portugal, Switzerland, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Korea, Mexico, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Russia — as the company’s licensing operation grows dramatically. Showrooms open in New York, Paris, London, Barcelona and New Delhi. Acquisition and development of retail chains: Solstice and Spanish chain Loop Vision, Australian chain Just Spectacles, Mexican chain Sunglass Island, Europe and Far East chain Eyedonist.

Safilo acquires the Kate Spade license.

In May, Safilo president Vittorio Tabacchi gains control of the entire Tabacchi family stake, which totals 60 percent. By December, he acquires the fi nal 40 percent, which was publicly traded, causing Safilo to be delisted. A centralized state-of-the-art warehouse opens at the Padua headquarters, consolidating the company’s distribution in three main points: Padua, Italy; Parsippany, N.J., and Hong Kong. Safilo acquires the Yves Saint Laurent and Saks Fifth Avenue licenses.

Safilo is licensed for the Bottega Veneta, Liz Claiborne, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney brands.

Safilo purchases Outlook Eyewear, an eyewear distributor in Denver.

Safilo acquires licenses for Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, J.Lo by Jennifer Lopez, 55 DSL, Boucheron (ended 2008), Marc Jacobs, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Boss by Hugo Boss, A|X Armani Exchange and Juicy Couture.


Company is quoted again on the Milan Stock Exchange.

Smith launches production of ski helmets.

Hugo by Hugo Boss, Balenciaga, Max & Co., Banana Republic licenses are granted.

Jimmy Choo licenses Safilo. The Carrera brand relaunches.