While negotiating the possible sale of its Solistyle mass market operations, the French company has signed a global licensing agreement for the Alfred Dunhill eyewear line, with the exception of Japan, and it's about to set up a sales subsidiary in the UK. Like its other subsidiaries in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Hong Kong, the new UK operation is controlled by Airess, but a local partner is involved with a minority stake.

The British minority partner is Brulimar, a company that knows the market well through numerous licenses likes Action Man, Barbie and Fisher-Price. It recently took on the UK distribution of Puma eyewear and it's now launching a line of Pepsi branded glasses, based on a European license.

The very British Dunhill men's brand has had an eyewear line in the market for many years, starting with some famous goggles for car driving at the beginning of the last century. It was produced in the 1980s by Optyl, the German company that subsequently taken over by Safilo. Most recently, the Dunhill eyewear line was licensed by Luxury Eyewear International, which is now going to concentrate exclusively on its Cartier line.

Airess already has some other major fashion brands in its portfolio, including Cacharel, Charles Jourdan, Chiemsee, Escada, Escada Sport, Fisher Price, Gerry Weber, John Galliano, Kenzo, Morgan and s. Oliver. The company enjoyed a 4 percent sales increase in the 1st half of this year to a reported e69.4 million.