MILAN — The Italian eyewear industry continued to bask in strong sales and trends, despite the chill that hit much of the luxury goods markets in the last year or so.

This story first appeared in the June 3, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The industry’s good health was evident in last year’s double-digit growth and hefty net profits posted by many companies. This was further reinforced at Mido, the international eyewear exhibition held here last month, as many publicly listed companies issued their first quarter results.

At Luxottica, net profits rose 20.9 percent to $90 million over the same period of 2001, as sales climbed 30.5 percent, hitting the $771 million mark. De Rigo’s sales rose by 8.3 percent to $127 million, fueled by new Givenchy collections, while sales for EID, its joint venture with Prada, jumped 41.6 percent to $7.6 million. Allison, a company under the IT Holding umbrella, saw sales leap from $5.5 million in 1999 to an expected volume of $75 million by yearend.

“Eyewear is so fashion-driven these days that people change it, whether they’re going to a cocktail party, skiing, to the beach or downtown, which is why designers are putting lots of energy into their collections,” said Lorenzo Cremona, chief executive officer at IC Optics.

Similarly, Maurizio Marcolin, ceo for licensing, marketing and business development at Marcolin, said: “People wear sunglasses to diversify and highlight their look based on the occasion. We’ve noticed that true fashionistas will buy the newest styles in January or February, just as they would buy a fur coat in August to make sure it doesn’t sell out.”

The popular goggle trend showed no sign of slowing down, with designers working many variations ranging from Dolce & Gabbana’s and Anna Sui’s butterfly-shaped goggles in shiny rose metal or burnished brown to Roberto Cavalli’s sculptured styles with the arm sinuously curved to form the letter “C” at the base of the rims. Prada served up a spate of rimless shields in bronze, rose or silver, while Giorgio Armani opted for squared shapes in combinations of steel and horn, with green lenses or gunmetal in tortoise shell or brown lenses.

Other key trends were oversized plastic shapes and aviators with a retro flavor, discreet logos, mirrored and gradient lenses and plenty of silver and metallic sheens.

Many manufacturers also pushed technology to new heights at Mido.

Safilo presented Chat, a $160 pair of plastic goggles with an earphone and microphone for cellular phones incorporated in the arm. Allison launched Gianfranco Ferre’s Pure Magnesium, which consists of 92 percent magnesium at $225 retail.

“Since magnesium weighs half of titanium, the advantage is bigger shapes at lighter weights,” said Silvio Reane Vacello, Allison’s ceo. The company also manufactures the Zerorh+ line, which showcased a pair of sunglasses with a featherweight 18 grams, which will retail for $120.

At IC Optics, Cremona said the weight of the frames was reduced by 20 percent.

“It’s very important, as long as the frames continue to be flexible and resistant and the size doesn’t matter,” he said.”

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