The emerging markets of Latin America are starting to attract Italy's medium-sized eyewear producers, in spite of prohibitive customs duties: 100 percent on acetate and 120 percent on metal. An Italian company, Nicodesign, has consequently identified a chain of luxury stores in which it can position its Made in Italy private label at top prices, considering that the best optical outlets in São Paolo have little difficulty selling premium eyewear at €700-800 a pair.

Giovanni Vitaloni, owner and president of Nicodesign, has signed a distribution agreement with a Brazilian specialist in luxury eyewear, Brillen Oculos, owned by Carlos Penco. The Italian firm will supply it with two house brands, Vanni and Dérapage, which will retail respectively at €425 and €600, considerably higher than their price points in Italian stores. The aim is to get into 100 stores in Brazil's four largest cities with a total of 3,000 Vanni frames, and to place 500 Dérapage frames in some 30 selected outlets.

Nicodesign exports 75 percent of its production. After a considerable fall in sales in 2009, turnover picked up in 2010 and should be back up to €5 million by the end of this year.

According to estimates, the Brazilian eyewear market was worth a total of €6.6 billion in 2010. It is growing by 15 percent this year and is expected to continue with double-digit growth until 2016.

The national duties of prescription frames and sunglasses are meant to protect a raft of Brazilian producers. However, the biggest one of them, Tecnol, gets its products made in Brazil as well as in Asia. With annual sales of €150 million, Tecnol operates a chain of about 100 optical retail stores, called Otica Iris, and sells eyewear under private labels and under brand names for which it has local licenses such as Benetton, Kipling and Pierre Cardin. Other local players at the wholesale level are Claire Mont, which imports semi-finished eyewear; Mormaii, which distributes sun eyewear; and Optisol, which produces and sells private labels. These kinds of products retail at between €80 and €120 a pair.

Apart from the Tecnol's Otica Iris chain and Foto Ottica, which is owned by Hal Trust, the Brazilian market is dominated by Otica Carol with 250 outlets and Otica Diniz with 400. There are some small chains with a dozen or so outlets at the top end of the market. A well-known personality on the Brazilian eyewear scene, Miguel Giannini, has an eyewear museum in one of his three megastores.