Antonio Pincin, a young Italian entrepreneur whose companyoriginally produced eyewear exclusively under contract, has succeeded in doubling its production by gaining a foothold in the Russian market through the former Galileo and by coming up with a highly innovative new product.

When Ital-lenti bought out the bankrupt Galileo group in January of 2000, it spun off its eyewear division, which made frames, putting the operation into a newly formed company called Galileo Occhiali. But this new company also went under in March of 2001 and Pincin put up e280,000 to buy its machinery, equipment and stock of finished products through its own company, Foval.

The assets included a 55 percent stake, later reduced to 43 percent, in Comtez di Elez, one of the major eyewear producers of the former Soviet Union, located some 400 kilometers outside Mosco, which produces metal and plastic eyewear from A to Z. Galileo had invested $6 million in 1994 to revamp the Russian firm's production facilities, and by 2002 Comtez was generating sales of around e5.6 million, with a workforce of some 1,000 people. After its acquisition, Foval put in an Italian deputy manager and totally reorganized production and design.

At the SILMO show in Paris last October Foval showed a new product that changes the way people buy prescription eyewear, after spending e40,000 to develop it. The consumer chooses the best shape for his lenses, which are then clipped onto a very fine non-welded nickel-free steel frame - it has a diameter of only 0.6 mm. compared with the finest frame currently on the market which measures 1 mm. The new item will be marketed worldwide under the Arcuo name by Charmant, which will show it at this week's Visiion Expo fair in New York.