Eyewear: a vision with vision

 

Report from the event “Eyewear: la montatura perfetta” that was held on November 8th in Università Bocconi.

Iconic, timeless, the ultimate accessory, a must-have.

Eyewear is a thriving business of 82 billion dollars with incredible growth potential and the world of fashion has its eye on its changing dynamics at the dawn of a new era, a new frame.

Roberto Vedovotto, Chairman and CEO of Kering Eyewear and Giovanni Zoppas, CEO of Thelios discussed the mechanisms and changes of the world of eyewear in a unique talk at Bocconi University.

‘Empowering imagination’ is the motto of Kering Eyewear launched in 2014, a fully integrated start-up which operates within the powerful luxury conglomerate of Kering. This fresh, key strategic initiative combines the best of both worlds: the freedom of a start-up within a solid framework.

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Back in 2013, Francois-Henry Pinault, the Chairman and CEO of Kering requested a feasibility study to internalize eyewear and create the sole luxury company in eyewear. A never-seen before initiative that would empower the brands under Kering’s wing. Mr Vedovotto recalled the early days when a group of four people, including himself, were combining their entrepreneurial acumens in an empty office space with one goal in mind: ‘do things in a different way’ and be a world leader in Luxury and High-End Eyewear with a unique composition of world-class brands that will ‘innovate and realize their financial and artistic potential in the most imaginative and sustainable way’.

This disruptive double-digit growth internalization was firstly met with scepticism by the fashion business sphere, but not for long.

Drifting away from the licensee model, moving in-house implies that all the elements of the brand DNA across categories align in creativity, innovation and imagination. Moreover, the product and distribution quality are positively affected since the brands can individually select the best manufacturers and the distribution points that represent the core values of the brands. These elements are source of great consistency which lead to a strong Top Line development (Net Sales of 270 euros in September 2017), an improvement of the Profit and Loss Accounts and finally a more targeted and concise marketing and communication linked with the retail part of the brands.

However, in an increasingly competitive market, being disruptive is not the key word for Kering only. Giovanni Zoppas, Marcolin Group’s Executive Vice Chairman since October 2017 outlined that the key for success is to be ‘ethical, curious and disruptive’. Hence, in January 2017 LVMH announced the creation of Thelios, its joint venture with Marcolin with one strong vision: be one full capacity partner for clients by a cross-fertilizing expertise of two groups with different sizes. The 2,500 square meters new factory and headquarters of Thelios will be the pillar of this strategic idea which is to concentrate in a single space design, savoir-faire, quality control and distribution. According to Mr Zoppas, this full integration of the supply chain is the ‘ace’ and differentiating aspect of Thelios leading to the shrinkage of the time to market, transparency, direct access to technology and the possibility to attract talents.

So, is this the beginning of a new frame for the eyewear business?

Both Mr Zoppas and Mr Vedovotto stressed how the eyewear territory is currently shifting with most players suffering (unrecoverable) losses while only some big few will remain in an extremely polarizing market. In other words, it’s the beginning of multi-brand consolidations under big groups such as Kering and LVMH thanks to consistent differentiations, only possible with the lead of visionary entrepreneurs.

Indeed, visionary leadership is the key for success and the main challenge for these start-ups. As Mr Zoppas jokingly pointed out, the major challenge he faced is age and the ability to ‘role-up the sleeves and start from scratch’.

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And last but not least: be committed, don’t give up and follow your passion for fashion.

Daphne Doukidis

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