Transitions Optical had a big, immersive stand at the Silmo Paris fair in September to showcase its new Generation 8 line of “intelligent” photochromic lenses, which darken up to 30 percent faster than the previous generation. In a much humbler way, the L'Amy Group showcased a much faster photochromatic technology by launching the Onesec Electrochromatic sunglass in its high-tech McLaren collection. Both products will become available in Europe next spring, but Transitions' line has already come out in the U.S.
The Onesec is the first “smart sunglass” developed by the French group, which is now working on its RX version and other variants. Electrochromatic rearview mirrors inside the cars are already in the market for night-time driving. Using Swiss technology that has already been applied to windows,
L'Amy has miniaturized the process, embedding it in a mineral lens and activating it with a light sensor. The lens gets dark within one second, compared with an estimated 25 seconds for a normal photochromic lens. This can be very handy when you drive in and out of a tunnel. It is powered by a battery lasting three years that can be replaced by the optician.
The Onesec Electrochromatic sunglass, which also features exclusive rotative hinges and a novel 3D-printed front in polyamide with carbon inside, will be available from next March in a limited edition of only 500 units. They can be purchased for €590 from 275 selected opticians who have already ordered the company's first model of McLaren sunglasses.
Made in France, the original McLaren model with a 3D-printed titanium front won the coveted Golden Silmo Award last year, but the company was able to start deliveries only a couple of months ago, five months later than planned. It took longer than expected to overcome the technical problems of applying a casting process to titanium with a rotating component.
The new smart sunglass was nominated for a Golden Silmo Award last September but did not win. Instead, L'Amy won the prize for a very stylish women's sunglass, called “Endless Summer,” developed by the French company under its licensed Sonia Rykiel Paris label.
Along with the McLaren smart sunglass, L'Amy presented another special model, called Hypérion, at its redesigned stand at the last Silmo. Relying on a Swiss supplier in the watch segment specializing in precision micro-mechanics, it claims the finest temples in the market. They are made of a special type of stainless steel that is also used in aerospace.
For L'Amy, whose parent company is also in the watch-making business, the two new products are the first in a new series of innovative items that will go under the umbrella of L'Amy Technologies.
“We have decided against being just another generalist producer of eyewear,” said Dominique Alba, the chief executive of L'Amy, who formerly ran the now defunct Logo Eyewear and Alain Mikli, arguing that the eyewear sector will be very different from it what it is now in five years' time. The advent of disruptive technologies will provide opportunities for ground-breaking innovations. Because of the competition from a verticalized EssilorLuxottica group, the market will consolidate around a smaller number of players with distinctive propositions, according to Alba. In general, he said, eyewear will have to be very technical and functional, responding to specific needs, or it should trigger positive emotions.
With this scenario in mind, L'Amy has created four different divisions. One of them, named Luxury & Innovation, incorporates McLaren and the new L'Amy Technologies segment as well as the Chris-Craft license and two luxury brands, Henry Jullien and Maison Laurençot. New functionalities will soon be offered in the company's Chris-Craft collection, whose big sunglasses are inspired by the American yachts by the same name. Jullien is a French brand of luxury eyewear from the Jura region, acquired by L'Amy two years ago, whose know-how and craftsmanship can be applied to other brands within the group.
Launched at last September's Silmo, Maison Laurençot is a more expressive brand of high-end gold- and platinum-plated glasses for men named after a 19th-century French jeweler with a store at Paris' Palais Royal. Each model is named after a different Parisian landmark, and prices start at more than €500 apiece.
L'Amy's three other divisions are Kids, Access Price (sic) and Atelier Couture. They group 18 different lines, six of which have been added over the last 12-14 months. In the children's line, Ernest & Celestine, Paddington, Miraculous and a downsized version of the Vespa license for adults have joined Fisher Price and the kid's lines of Chevignon, New Balance and Sonia Rykiel.
In the accessible price range, a brand called Madeinitalia has joined Chevignon, Le Temps des Cerises and the European distribution of New Balance eyewear. Madeinitalia is a brand that belongs to Brandsdistribution, an Italian company specializing in B2B online sales of various types of products made in Italy.
The Atelier Couture division comprises four licensed fashion labels: Sonia Rykiel, Cerruti 1881, Canali and a Ted Lapidus collection that has been re-launched and re-positioned to target senior citizens.
L'Amy will end this year with relatively flat revenues of around €27.5 million in 35 countries. Its sales would have risen by about 20 percent, according to Alba, if L'Amy had kept its important license for Kenzo eyewear, which LVMH decided to bring in-house through Thélios, its joint venture with Marcolin. From the beginning of this year, the Marcolin Group has also become the global licensee for Bally, whose eyewear previously belonged to the product portfolio of L'Amy, but was sold mainly in Asia.
The figure excludes the somewhat higher revenues of L'Amy America, which is separately owned by the same company, the International Luxury Group, and separately managed. Its sales reached a level of about $40 million in 2018 and are expected to be about 5 percent higher this year.
Specializing in the mid-tier segment, L'Amy America gets some 90 percent of its revenues from its own brands and licenses. It has just started to distribute the McLaren sunglasses produced by the French company in North America, starting with less than 200 selected dealers as part of its new luxury division, which also offers Henri Jullien, Chris-Craft and Plein Les Mirettes glasses (EWI Vol. 20 N° 2+3 of Feb. 22, 2019).