MILAN — In another sign LVMH Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy is intent on growing the Marc Jacobs business, the French group has inked an eyewear license for the brand with Safilo.

This story first appeared in the May 14, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Under the terms of the deal, Safilo will produce and distribute sunglasses and prescription frames for the brands Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs. The first collections are set to hit stores in January. It is not yet clear if the frames would make their debut at Paris’ Silmo exhibition in October.

The contract is for seven years, renewable for another four. Safilo did not disclose sales forecasts.

“We are very selective when it comes to taking on brands because our portfolio is already rather full, but this seemed like a big opportunity,” Safilo chief executive Roberto Vedovotto said in an interview.

“This agreement also strengthens our relationship with LVMH,” he added, alluding to Safilo’s license for Christian Dior.

That statement prompts the question of whether Safilo could also be on its way to snagging a license for Louis Vuitton eyewear. Given that nearly every other major fashion brand has found an eyewear partner, companies in the industry are salivating over the possibility the venerable French firm will move into the product category. When asked about the possibility of Safilo signing a Vuitton license, Vedovotto declined comment.

Marc Jacobs has a past in eyewear. The brand once had a license with De Rigo, a smaller Italian eyewear company that recently bought its way out of a joint venture with Prada. De Rigo has little exposure in the U.S. and more retail muscle in markets like Spain and the U.K.

LVMH’s eyewear strategy is in fact a unique one, split between different companies. LVMH teamed up with De Rigo for Celine, Givenchy, Loewe and Fendi (this latter agreement is for the non-Americas business; Marchon handles North and South America) but turned to Safilo for Dior.

In 2001, LVMH and De Rigo formed a strategic alliance, part of which gave LVMH an option to buy 5 percent of the Italian company — an option it never exercised. At the time, De Rigo was hoping to snag the then-expiring Dior license from Safilo, but LVMH chose to renew its deal with Safilo.

— A.K.

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