Allison, the eyewear branch of Tonino Perna's IT Holding, signed a licensing agreement with the Chinese-American designer on April 30. The new license, which will involve an investment similar to that sustained for its own Romeo Gigli and Exté license, the new agreement with Anna Sui will run for a 10-year period with the option of a further 10 years.

The new deal is part of a strategy to gain a good chunk of the US market, where Allison recently opened a subsidiary, and of the Japanese market as well. The designer is highly popular in both parts of the world. The first collection, comprising about 40 models of sun and prescription glasses made in Italy, will be showcased at Silmo in Paris in the Fall.

Allison has also obtained the right to distribute Zerorh+, a new line of sports eyewear by Benetton Group, which generally manufactures and markets its eyewear brands through Filos Group, in which it has a 22 percent stake.

To help boost its own manufacturing capacity, IT Holding-Allison has adopted a strategy of buying into the equity of small firms, based in Italy's major eyewear manufacturing region, that are rich in know-how but experiencing financial difficulties. For example, the group recently acquired a 40 percent stake in Neometal, a firm based in Domegge di Cadore.

The group's sales results for the first quarter of 2001 confirm Allison's target to double its 2000 turnover, and to cross the threshold of 100 billion lire (e51m-$44m)for the whole year. The pre-tax profit margin already stands at 9 percent.