Vanni is the Turin-based firm of Giovanni Vitaloni, president of Anfao, the Italian optical industry association, and the brand name under which the firm entered the eyewear market 28 years ago. The firm's other, more sophisticated house brand is Derapage.

Vanni sells 125,000 to 130,000 frames per year at €180 to €250 apiece. The company saw its turnover rise by 10 percent to €6.5 million in 2017 and by a further 10 percent to €7 million in 2018.

Acetate accounts for 75 percent of its production, with exclusive materials supplied by Mazzucchelli. The remaining 25 percent is in metal, using advanced manufacturing techniques that combine hand assembly with laser cutting and multi-level photoengraving of steel plates.

From start to finish, Vanni frames are steadfastly Italian, and this is part of its strategy, which is meant to marry creativity in design with careful international distribution and advanced marketing concepts.

Derapage, for example, specializes in limited collections of 100 frames, released frequently and carrying a retail price of €250 apiece. They are sold exclusively at the fairs where they are introduced, in the U.S., Canada and France. The brand is now available from 300 optical shops worldwide. Some of the lines sell out quickly.

The Vanni brand is sold in 40 countries through distributors. In France, Vanni holds a minority stake in its distributor, FML Paris, whose eight agents sell Vanni eyewear to some 1,500 optical shops. Vanni became a shareholder so that it could exert some control over FML's inventory.

Vanni sells through local distributors in the U.S. and the U.K. as well. In Canada, another great importer of its eyewear, Vanni has used the same distributor for the past 25 years: Georges and Phina, whose six agents work almost exclusively with Vanni, handling distribution to some 450 optical shops.

Vanni sees its approach to marketing as a cultural concept that transmits Italian style through eyewear. It's not just Made in Italy, but something deeper, something that ties in with the taste for Italian food, a metaphor for good ingredients, talent and creativity that applies just as well to a chef as to a fashion designer. For Vanni, the story behind a product is very important. Production details matter, down to the origin of the raw materials or the very cotton flowers that the acetate is drawn from.

In the framework of this “cultural” approach, Vanni has decided to sponsor, together with eight other firms, an international art exhibition, called Artissima, that will be held in Turin from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3. As part of the program, 200 major art collectors will receive 200 pairs of “artist's glasses” made of concrete. Another 200 pairs will be sold inside the fair at €450 each. The participants in the project will share the revenues.

Vanni's cultural approach is also applied to training. The company has participated in a project by the European Institute of Design where selected students compete in the design of a style of eyeglasses. The jury has chosen one, called Remix because it synthesizes trends from the sixties, seventies and eighties. It will be made by Vanni and sold at a retail price of €260.