Modo Eyewear, a rather special company that is growing quickly and that has interesting stories to tell, is moving into new territory with the launch of a collection of light and colorful 3D-printed glasses at the Silmo show in Paris at the end of this week. The fronts are made with a special carbon-reinforced polymer at a Swiss factory that also manufacturers brakes for Formula One racing cars.
Modo has been one of the sponsors of the Sauber 1 Formula One racing team for some years. The new line will accompany Modo's core collection of glasses made of acetate, titanium and stainless steel, which are made in Japan, and its more affordable Eco line, which is made in China with recycled and natural materials. It also a few other lines of products made under license for brands like Derek Line and 7 for Mankind. Like its three other collections, the new 3D-printed line will be competitively priced.
Most of Modo's glasses are prescription frames, but its sales of sunglasses are growing fast, approaching 20 percent of the sales volume. They are now integrating special lenses with a high chromatic definition, made in Japan.
Without providing specific sales figures, the company indicates that its annual revenues amount to more than $50 million and that it will probably reach a level of $100 million in a few years' time. Its products are sold in about 10,000 retail accounts in 75 countries. Working with them directly or through distributors, Modo continued to grow very fast in 2017, rising by around 25 percent in the U.S., by 32 percent in Europe and by nearly 80 percent in Asia.
It is providing a lot of support to its newly appointed distributor in China and it has been making big strides all over Asia, where it has been offering specifically fitted glasses for the past couple of seasons. The U.S. remains the biggest market, but Europe is catching up fast.
With its moderate pricing and its social and environmental commitment, Eco has been the company's fastest-growing line lately. The name stands for Earth-Conscious Optics. The lightweight frames are made with recycled and vegetal materials, and Modo is getting one tree planted for each frame sold. “I Wear Nature,” says one of the company's ads and the cover of a book dedicated to this program.
Since its launch in 2012, 1.8 million trees have been planted in African countries like Cameroon, Senegal and Tanzania, and they are expected to pass the threshold of two million trees by 2019. While reducing the global carbon footprint, the program is also intended to encourage the local population to develop agricultural projects.
Modo also launched another social responsibility program for its Modo line about five years ago, “Buy A Frame – Help a Child See” to help children in underprivileged areas to see better and avoid blindness, in partnership with the Seva Foundation and other charities. This year alone, the program will have benefited some 650,000 children in India and Nepal.
Modo was founded in New York in 1990 by Alessandro Lanaro, an entrepreneur born in Italy's Cadore district, after he wrote a dissertation on Luxottica. His business idea was to develop a line of eyewear with a good price-quality ratio specifically targeted at independent retailers as an alternative to those of the big brands, starting with the U.S. market.
An Italian partner, Giovanni Lo Faro, helped him to set up an office in Milan in 2008 to take care of distributors and retailers in the rest of the world through a separate company of which he is the chief executive, with a minority stake in the operation. In addition to China, Japan, Thailand and other Asian countries, Latin America and other markets like Israel, Turkey and South Africa have been developing well lately.
Six years ago, Modo moved its design office from New York to Stockholm, in order to create a more cosmopolitan collection. A team of about ten people in the Swedish capital moves around the world for their inspiration, while holding meetings with officials stationed in New York and Milan between four and five times annually.