By the end of this year the annual value of Italy's eyewear exports is expected to cross the €3 billion threshold. This projection is based on the data for the first half of 2014, which make it highly probable that eyewear “made in Italy” will hit yet another record on the global market. Apart from the monetary and political problems in Russia, the experts don't predict other new factors for the second half of this year that could significantly limit the growth trend of the first half.

Italy's exports grew by 10.3 percent, with a higher rate for sunglasses and mostly in the rest of Europe and Asia. In the Americas, particularly the U.S., the growth rate was a little lower because the strong euro made European products more expensive. But according to the latest data, the dollar is starting to climb back, reducing the currency impact. Europe and the Americas combined account for 80 percent of Italian eyewear exports.

According to Anfao, the Italian association of eyewear producers, exports reached a total of €1,635 million in the first six months of 2016. The figures break down into 10.9 percent growth for sun eyewear, to a value of €1,110 million, and 8.7 percent for prescription frames, rising to just over €491 million.

Adding the 16.2 percent increase recorded by the sector abroad in 2013, we can conclude that in the space of two years consumers around the world have bought almost a third more Italian eyewear. The attraction of the “made in Italy” label was not the only reason for the growth, as the entire Italian style and fashion segment recorded an export increase of only 4.8 percent in the first half of 2014.

As a whole, Europe remained the leading customer for Italian eyewear, with 52.5 percent of total exports, up by 13.3 percent for the January-June period, followed by the Americas with 26.8 percent, up by 2.7 percent year-on-year. Asia remained a major destination, with 17.7 percent of the total and growth accelerating to close to 14 percent, with increases of 14.2 percent for frames and 13.9 for sunglasses.

In the Americas, the U.S. market remained at the top with 21.7 percent of Italy's eyewear exports, up by an average of 5.2 percent, which breaks down into increases of 6.7 percent for sunglasses and 0.9 percent for frames. Growth was lower than for the same period last year because of the unfavorable euro/dollar ratio.

In Europe, exports to France were up by 8.2 percent – 6.5 percent for frames and 9.4 percent for sunglasses. France took 14.6 percent of total Italian exports. Germany was up by a significantly high rate of 20.8 percent, rising by 19.4 percent in sunglasses and 21.8 percent in frames. While Spain grew by 4.8 percent (+1.9% for frames and +5.9% for sunglasses), the U.K. jumped by nearly 30 percent, buying 10.5 percent more frames and 41.5 percent more sunglasses.

Exports to Japan rose by 26 percent. In emerging markets, sales to China surged by over 106 percent, while the United Arab Emirates rose by 17.4 percent and Brazil by 22 percent. Russia went in the opposite direction, with a drop of 8 percent that Anfao attributes mainly to the devaluation of the ruble, which has lost almost 10 percent more against the euro since January, making Italian products more expensive. This trend is likely to worsen in the immediate future given the European sanctions on Russian goods due to the Ukraine crisis.