We have already reported about the partnership between Pro Design of Denmark and Face à Face, the French brand of designer eyewear (EWI vol. 15 - 11°12 of July 10). Ørgreen Optics, a fast-growing Danish producer of high-end designer eyewear, has now formed a strategic partnership with Claire Goldsmith, the 37-year-old British entrepreneur who markets a line of eyewear under her own name as well as the Oliver Goldsmith line of sunglasses.
Ørgreen Optics has acquired a stake of 50 percent in Claire Goldsmith Eyewear with the aim of supporting its development in order to take full advantage of its well-known brand name. Her grand-grandfather, Philip Oliver Goldsmith, became famous in the sector after founding his company in 1926. His big white Oliver Goldsmith frames were worn by celebrities like Audrey Hepburn and Michael Caine.
Founded in 1997 in Copenhagen, where it occupies a historic building, Ørgreen has made its mark with a premium line of good-quality glasses with rather original Scandinavian designs and special hues, handcrafted in titanium and beta titanium in Japan. While Claire Goldsmith's company has had its ups and downs over the past six years, particularly during the economic recession, Ørgreen has been growing very rapidly thanks to strong management in production planning, international sales development and other operations. No precise sales figures could be obtained, but Ørgreen's products are now sold in more than 2,000 stores in over 50 countries against about 450 stores in 30 countries for Claire Goldsmith.
Henrik Ørgreen, chief executive of the company bearing his name, told us that it has become the third-largest Danish producer of eyewear after Lindberg and Pro Design. Its sales grew by more than 20 percent last year and will grow even more this year, he added. He attributed the growth to the company's decision to invest heavily in products, systems, personnel and marketing during the recession, in contrast to other firms.
Henrik Ørgreen, who is now 44, met Claire Goldsmith over a glass of beer during the spring 2013 International Vision Expo East fair in New York. He introduced her to a new designer who has helped lighten up her collections and persuaded her to hire the first international sales manager, a Frenchman by the name of Yoann Foechterlé, who worked previously for Oliver Peoples.
Stressing that their two companies will continue to operate separately, Henrik Ørgreen said that he has been playing “big brother” to Claire Goldsmith. The latter said that she regarded Henrik as “a shelter from a very competitive marketplace,” with big and small companies that could crush her business overnight.
The two companies will help each other to optimize their sales networks and to find shelf space in the limited number of optical retail stores around the world that carry designer eyewear. Ørgreen has a strong network of distributors and agents in 25 countries. Claire Goldsmith trades most successfully in France, Italy and the U.S., but has almost no presence in the Scandinavian countries.
There are no plans to share suppliers. While all the Ørgreen frames are made in Japan, Claire Goldsmith gets all her glasses made in Italy and the U.K.
Claire Goldsmith set up her own company in 2005, after accumulating experience in marketing at blue-chip companies. She inherited part of the family business from her father, who split up with his brother in 1985, retaining the rights to P. Oliver Goldsmith's archives and to the Oliver Goldsmith name for sunglasses. The frames are still developed and marketed separately by his brother, who is also named Oliver Goldsmith and is now 72 years old.
The two branches of the family have not been able to come to terms since then, and Oliver Goldsmith restated this week his belief that they will never get together again, but both Henrik and Claire told us that they are hoping for a reconciliation at a later stage. They are encouraged by the fact that Ørgreen's main supplier in Japan is also the main supplier and licensee of Oliver Goldsmith's prescription frames in the country.
Henrik Ørgreen established his own company in 1997 together with two partners who are deeply involved with him in the operation, handling design, production and sales. He and one of his partners were previously working for Arnette, the American action sports brand that was subsequently bought by Bausch & Lomb and Luxottica. He said he learned a lot from the sporting goods business.