François Pinton, an emblematic figure in French designer eyewear, has struck a strategic partnership with Karavan & Co. (KNCO), a French company that is managing a growing array of eyewear brands and licenses. The idea is to create economies of scale that will help to relaunch the François Pinton brand, which has a strong heritage as a favorite among Hollywood celebrities of the past.

KNCO has made an unspecified financial investment in François Pinton. It is also taking over many of its back-office functions, including finance, administration, logistics and customer service. Design, product development and sales will remain separate, but the two companies will try to work together in some distant markets.

Dominique François Pinton, heir to a company that goes back for a few generations, will continue to be involved. He has represented French eyewear design for long time. His children, Alexis and Philippine, will continue to be responsible for the management of key accounts and design, respectively.

KNCO is already linked with François Pinton as one of the manufacturers of its glasses, which are all made in France. It has a factory at Evreux, north of Paris, that makes about 100,000 pairs of acetate spectacles per year for a dozen clients, particularly in the luxury goods segment, and some of its own brands.

The company was created in 2008 by Jean-Michel Costaseque, a former consultant of the Boston Consulting Group who had worked for Essilor, and a partner who had worked for the same consultancy in other sectors. They had both studied engineering. They took over Karavan, which managed the Evreux factory, and added many new brands and licenses over the years, particularly in the children's sector.

KNCO took over the eyewear licenses for two French brands of children's wear, Catimini and Jacadi. Last year it added two other children's licenses from Logo Eyewear, Barbapapa and Bamboo. The company already had the Karavan Kids line in its portfolio. Three years ago, KNCO took over the John Lennon eyewear license and two brands of glasses, Axebo and Evolun, from the Buffard group.

Independently of acquisitions, KNCO has been growing at an annual rate of about 30 percent. The addition of François Pinton, which is more heavily distributed internationally, will push the total turnover of the group up to a level of nearly €15 million. Karavan already has its own sales offices in Belgium and Germany.

Costaseque says that KNCO is open for other acquisitions, especially in foreign countries, to help internationalize the business further. Prodesign of Denmark recently went in this direction with its takeover of another French brand, Face à Face. As reported in the news briefs in this issue, an Austrian brand, Andy Wolf, has made a similar move with its acquisition of Mandrillon, a manufacturer of hand-made metal frames made in the Jura region of France.