The group’s CEO believes the new Isabel Marant eyewear collection is a successful example of a collection that targets local consumers, which is an increasingly important business strategy.
Isabel Marant is unveiling its first eyewear collection in a licensing agreement with Safilo Group, which signals an increased attention to a local customer, according to Angelo Trocchia, chief executive officer of the Italian manufacturer.
“Luxury will always be a segment affluent consumers will gravitate toward, but there are business opportunities available through licenses that have a different scale and that have a local significance and value,” Trocchia explained.
Safilo’s goal, he continued, is “not just to tick off a brand,” and add licenses to its existing pool. Zeroing in on “a clear consumer target or geographic need” is increasingly key.
Case in point, Isabel Marant’s collection of sunglasses and optical frames, which launches for spring 2021, embodies the brand’s “Parisian aesthetic, with a recognizable and sophisticated style and French creativity,” Trocchia observed. Leveraging “a strong connection between Safilo’s design team and the fashion house allowed to translate the essence of the brand into the glasses — which is the beauty of the challenge.”
The collection, under a 10-year licensing agreement, comprises a range of timeless shapes crafted in thin acetate and enhanced by distinctive details, such as the brand’s signature Silver Leaf as a metal trim on the front or leaf- shaped nose-pads. The chiseled wire-core is subtly visible through the bilayer acetate of the temples, and the Isabel Marant logo sits on the external left temple. The end-tip is shaped as a leaf.
The collection will be launched with an ad campaign starring Rebecca Leigh photographed by Juergen Teller.
Trocchia said he believes “the consumer wants more and more to be treated as a person — in fact, I don’t really like the term consumer,” and that, accordingly, he sees the regional and local dimension as one that Safilo must be more attentive to.
This means the plan is to avoid an indiscriminate distribution of the Isabel Marant collection. Trocchia expressed confidence the line would bring strong business in the first year in the U.K. and North Europe, in addition to France. He also pointed to potential growth in the United Arab Emirates and other areas of the Middle East. The collection will be distributed in the U.S. in a second phase.
Another example of this strategy is the 10-year licensing agreement signed last year with Ports 1961, whose distribution was announced as limited to mainland China.
“This license is very important for the development of that region for Safilo. Chinese consumers will always be well-disposed toward major luxury brands, but I am convinced that they will be increasingly more sensitive to Chinese brands in Asia,” contended Trocchia. Similarly to Isabel Marant, that license offers a geographic opportunity and the potential to develop a specific customer cluster.
“China is a key strategic market in our development plans, and we know how important it is for eyewear brands to be locally relevant to their target groups, especially in China, which is very specific, not only in terms of fitting but also with distinct tastes and local consumer trends,” Trocchia said.
Safilo’s license with Levi Strauss & Co. for the design, manufacturing and distribution of Levi’s branded eyewear collections, effective January 2020, responds to another business strategy, catering to Millennials and Gen Zers all over the world, allowing the company the opportunity to grow in the contemporary market segment.
Safilo has been working to redesign a new portfolio quickly — an “increasingly key quality,” Trocchia said, as the eyewear industry has gone through major shake-ups, including the creation of a joint venture between LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Marcolin, called Thélios, to produce eyewear collections for brands under the umbrella of the French giant luxury group.
This year marks the exit of the lucrative Dior brand, while the exit of the Fendi label is expected in June. In particular, the group has been re-balancing its stable of proprietor and licensed brands. This however, Trocchia cautioned, does not mean a retreat from licenses, which “remain fundamental.” Safilo produces and distributes eyewear for labels ranging from DB Eyewear by David Beckham, Missoni, Marc Jacobs and Moschino to Tommy Hilfiger and Under Armour, recently launched in the U.S.
Safilo’s owned brands, ranging from the eponymous label, Polaroid, Smith and Carrera to Blenders Eyewear and Privé Revaux should account for more than 50 percent in 2024, and Trocchia said he expects to reach that target ahead of that date.
As reported, Safilo revenues last year amounted to 780.3 million euros, a 16.9 percent drop compared with 939 million euros in the previous year.
In the fourth quarter, sales grew 3 percent at constant exchange to 225.6 million euros (falling by 2.1 percent at current exchange), as its Chinese business more than tripled in the last quarter of the year.
The recent acquisitions of Blenders Eyewear and Privé Revaux also boosted the group’s online operations, with online business rising 175.5 percent in 2020 versus 2019.
Overall, Safilo has been focusing on its digital transformation, its direct-to-consumer strategy and increasing its share of business-to-business.