Italy is no longer the exclusive domain of the big eyewear conglomerates and the small craftsmen who work for them and other big firms on an OEM basis. A new generation of small eyewear brands with a high design content and original stories to tell has been taking hold in the country over the past few years. Some of the new start-ups are showing at Silmo and other big and small fairs in Europe.
A new brand, called iMoon, is making its debut at the Paris fair with its first line after a number of promising one-to-one meetings with selected Italian buyers. As the name suggests, its unique selling proposition is a range of fashionable glasses that improve night vision through its special lenses, made by Christian Dalloz Sunoptics in Cridal, a copolyester-based material for sunlenses launched by the French company in 2010.
Marco Cazzaniga, who is launching the iMoon project in collaboration with a consultant for the eyewear industry, says the idea was born from a visit to the island of Ibiza, where he saw many people wearing sunglasses during a full-moon night. Like many Italian fashionistas, they were wearing their sunglasses as accessories and to protect themselves from the spotlights and from other people. He thought that they could also improve their night vision.
The iMoon project is one of 25 creative ideas that are being supported by an industry association in Milan, Assolombarda, under a program called “Startup Town.” The iMoon collection consists of four styles in four colors that are meant to reflect four different moods, like the phases of the moon. Manufactured by Italy's Lester Group, they come in an original moon-inspired case made by Moretti Astucci in a biodegradable material.
Raver Tower is another new Italian company, based in Pordenone, that already has distributors in Finland and Spain, and hopes to cover the whole of the European market thanks to contacts made at Silmo. It began producing and selling acetate prescription frames under the Working Class label in April. The temples of the frames are lined with appropriately processed denim fabric.
The frames retail at €350 a pair, and the company is budgeting the sale of 4,000 units in the first year of operation, until April 2015. The relatively high price is justified by the fact that the entire frame is a niche product handcrafted in Italy with a complex production process. The company manages design and marketing directly, while shipping, invoicing and quality control are outsourced. The frames are manufactured in the Belluno district. Next year Raver Tower plans to launch a second house brand, Giorgio Valli, made of horn.
Another interesting new story is that of Uptitude. It sounds like the story of Vinylize, the Hungarian company that makes glasses from recycled vinyl records, featured in the last issue of Eyewear Intelligence, but it is still work in progress. Ermanno Zanella, a 25 year-old graduate from the University of Bolzano in the mountains of Alto Adige (or South Tyrol), is looking for partners to assist in the development and sale of a line of eyewear frames made with waste material from broken skis and snowboards. The material is sourced from the manufacturers of the gear and winter sports equipment rental services. Zanella has already developed a prototype of his Uptitude eyewear with the cooperation of a team at a laboratory of his university.