The two French frame manufacturers, are pursuing divergent strategies after rationalizing their internal processes and their international sales networks. While Airess is slimming down, concentrating on fewer brands, L'Amy is getting more of them, building up a small decentralized empire of controlled entities that make use of the same sophisticated back-office systems.

Airess has just announced or is about to announce its takeover of the worldwide licensing rights for the Jean-Paul Gaultier brand of eyewear from Murai, which will keep them for Japan. The trendy and creative French designer will take the place of Kenzo in the shrinking brand portfolio of Airess, which had carried the brand for 17 years. Lately, Airess had been unable to sell this line in any great quantities outside France, which represented 90 percent of a turnover of about €3 million last year.

L'Amy, which has been taking on board many other brands lately, has agreed to take over Airess' Kenzo line for the whole world, expect Japan, with a reported goal of reaching annual sales of about €9 million. Starting last Oct. 6, Kenzo branded frames and sunglasses for men, women and children are being distributed via a subsidiary of L'Amy called artcol.216.

The acquisition of Lunettes Grasset a couple of years ago had already boost the brand portfolio of L'Amy, whose biggest license remains Lacoste, and its cross-selling deals with Rem Eyewear in the USA, Tecnol in Brazil and Indo in Spain have reinforced its operations. Last Spring, the French company had acquired many other important licenses previously held by another French group, Berthet-Bondet, which had gone into bankruptcy proceedings. They are Karl Lagerfeld, Sonia Rykiel, Rochas, Nikon and Crayola and they have been entrusted to a new 100 percent owned subsidiary, Régé & Associés, run by Alain and André Régé, with a publicized annual sales target of about €5 million. Another important license of Berthet-Bondet, Thierry Mugler, has gone over to Grosfilley.

Airess will put the Gaultier line into a newly formed ?luxury? sales network, which also includes the Dunhill, Escada and John Galliano brands. A separate sales network will handle Airess' other remaining brands ? Buffard, Celio, Eden Park and Morgan. Airess recently passed on to Logo its own license for Cacharel to avoid cannibalizing the Morgan brand, which is regarded as having a stronger potential in the longer term. It also got rid of the Roland-Garros license, now held by GBC, and it may divest the Fischer-Price line.

Earlier this year, Sunreeve, which already had the licensing rights to the Charles Jourdan brand for Japan, took over the rights to this French brand for the rest of the world from Airess. Sunreeve, a large Japanese group that works with Safilo in its own country and employs more than 1,000 persons at its own factories in Japan and China, has many other brands like Ma-Ji Masamoto, Masaki Matsushima, Oval Takumi and Hibiki. As it did in Germany 3 years ago, Sunreeve set up a new office in France a few months ago, taking over the business from a distributor.

The new company, Sunreeve France, is run by Pierre Elmaleh who continues to run his own firm, Planet Optical, which has been marketing the Gaultier line and other brands of Murai in France and Spain for several years. While the German office coordinates Sunreeve's sales in Northern and Eastern Europe, the French coordinates distributors in other countries, including Pro-Optic and Unique Eyewear in the UK.

Airess is still in negotiations with about 4 different candidates over the sale of its own controlling interest in Solistyle, a profitable company specializing in the sale of cheaper lines, made for the most part in China, for the mass market. A similar operation of Berthet-Bondet is looking for a new investor as well. Together with Solistyle, Airess had a turnover of €68 million last year, employing a total of 650 persons including 350 production workers in the Jura region of France, where the company started in 1950.

L'Amy, which is showing its first Columbia Sportswear line at this week's SILMO in Paris, had sales of €71 million last year, with a small decline that was partly due to the weakness of the US market. The growing brand portfolio will boost the group's turnover, and combined with its recent investments in offshore processing and supply chain management, it should help improve the group's overall profitability. An interesting web browser developed by Think Design is the latest innovative tool that Marc Lamy has adopted. Already used for the design and development of other products such as fragrance bottles, pens and racquets, it allows its designers and marketers in Italy, France and China to develop a new frame in 3 dimensions within less than half a day through the internet, with an immediate input into the CAD/CAM process.