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Massimo Renon, CEO, Marcolin Group

Tom Bottomley
09 December 2019

Marcolin Group is among the world’s leading companies in the eyewear industry, with a portfolio of designers and brands it produces eyewear under license for including Tom Ford, Moncler, Ermenegildo Zegna, Sportmax, Longines, Roberto Cavalli, Tod's, Emilio Pucci, Swarovski, Dsquared2, Guess, Diesel, Timberland, Gant and now adidas.

In 2018, the company sold about 14.6 million eyeglasses. Recently it has become the first international eyewear company to collaborate with award-winning sustainability platform Positive Luxury, set to become a sponsor of the Innovation of the Year Award at a ceremony taking place in London on 25 February, 2020. Marcolin Group’s CEO, Massimo Renon, gives an insight into the company and its unique ability to faithfully combine design and Italian craftsmanship with the core values of each brand.

What is the attraction for brands to work with Marcolin Group on their eyewear?

In the industry, Marcolin is recognised as the probably the highest quality player, and the one more focused on the design and quality of the product. It was the quality and innovation that attracted me to join the company in the first place.

What are the future plans?

We will consolidate all the activities that we have put in place, and all the new brands that we are launching eyewear for, such as adidas – which we announced in June. We also confirmed in September that we will be launching OMEGA eyewear as another global partner for eyewear, and even more recently we’ve agreed to produce sunglasses and optical frames for BMW. Victoria’s Secret is another strong brand that we’ve added to our portfolio recently. We have presented the collections, but in spring 2020 we will be launching them all in the market through all the stores we supply. There is also another new brand agreement that is likely to be announced at the beginning of next year, but it’s not signed just yet.

What is the background of the company?

It was initially established in Italy in 1961 by Giovanni Marcolin who originally produced eyewear under the Marcolin brand, as well as for third parties – originally a couple of local players that don’t exist anymore. The Marcolin brand does still exist in the US, but only for some specific customers. The biggest and most recognised brand to come on board with Marcolin for eyewear was Dolce & Gabbana in the 1990s, though the brand had previously worked with the likes of Roberto Cavalli and John Galliano.

Tom Ford Marcolin

Tom Ford eyewear

Which of the brands that you produce eyewear for has been the most successful?

I think the number one is Tom Ford, which we started with 15 years ago in 2004. I think it’s been so successful because it was started from scratch. There was no apparel business, perfume or even Tom Ford shops. He was just a very famous designer coming from Gucci. After he left Gucci, he decided to put in place his new brand – under his own name. From nothing he became one of the top 10 eyewear brands in the world.

How do the license agreements work?

In our industry it’s a very common business model. We design, produce and distribute the products for the brands, and we pay a royalty to each brand. So, it’s a very simple relationship. We pay a fee to them, and then we have the right to use the logo and the name on our products.

Do the brands also get involved with the designs?

Absolutely yes, of course. We absorb their input and we get immersed in their DNA, then we put all that input from them into the product. We work alongside their designers and everything has to be signed off by the brands. There is an element of going from dream to reality with some creative directors from brands, but that’s what we are very strong at.

Do you have different designers working with different brands?

Yes, we do. For instance, we have a specific division working only on Tom Ford, and the same thing for Guess – our second largest brand. Then we have designated designers for Moncler, Ermenegildo Zegna, adidas and all of the 25 brands that we have in our portfolio. Most of the designers come from Italy – from the same region in our district of Belluno. It’s in the north east of Italy, not far from Venice. That’s where we design and produce all of the made in Italy frames, but we also have a US design team based in New Jersey who design for the US market – different frames, shapes and colours which are quite different from European trends. We also have an Asian design team based in Hong Kong. They design with a different fit because consumers in the Asian part of the world require it.

What’s the real difference in quality in what you produce for Tom Ford compared to say Gant?

First of all, all of the Tom Ford sunglasses are made in Italy, so the quality is higher as it’s almost a handmade product, where as the Gant product is made in China – so there’s a gap in quality as well as price. Also, the shapes are very different because Tom Ford is a fashion product, which includes input coming from a real fashion guru. Gant is more of a mass-produced product, so simple shapes for a lot of different faces, but not so refined or sophisticated. The luxury fashion brands are produced in Italy at our own factory in Belluno.

What sort of market share does Marcolin have on a global scale?

It’s difficult to size our market share, because it’s whether you consider the whole market or specifically the fashion market, but I can say that Marcolin is in the top four players in the world. The biggest one is a €23 billion company called Luxottica. The other two are also from the same region in Italy as us, so we are all in competition to be number two.

In 2018 the company sold about 14.6 million units, but how did that grow from 2017 and what are the expectations for 2019?

From 2017 to 2018 we grew about 6%-7%, but we are expecting to be flat for 2019 versus 2018 because we decided to clean up our portfolio with some low performing brands, and to substitute them with the new license agreements as mentioned before. This has been a year of transition, but we are expecting a growth next year.

Does Marcolin also have retail stores?

No, we are a pure wholesaler, so no retail stores, retail network or e-commerce. There are also no plans to in the short-term. There are also no plans in the short-term to relaunch a Marcolin Eyewear brand, because to create a brand is much more difficult than to make one that you already have in your portfolio bigger. The Marcolin brand is almost unknown to most of the consumers, and you need to invest a lot of money in advertising and making it more visible. We prefer to concentrate on the organic growth of the brands we have in our portfolio.

Which brand do you potentially see as being your next Tom Ford?

We have two strong players in Swarovski and Timberland, and either of those could potentially be the next Tom Ford. We also now have big expectations with adidas, because it’s a global sports brand, and the trend now is for more sporty product in the market. We are expecting to have great success with the adidas collection.

Do you now have a real focus on sustainability?

We are one of the first, if not the first, eyewear company to focus on sustainability. Marcolin Group is also the first international eyewear company collaborating with Positive Luxury. We will demonstrate to our partners and consumers that we are tracing a new path in the sustainability. Our relentless pursuit of innovation and experimentation has also led Marcolin Group to become the first sponsor for the Positive Luxury Innovation of the Year Award. We are going to certify processes, for example, with Timberland we have been producing eco-sustainable eyewear since 2008. All suppliers have been certified. Going forward we are going to extend this process for all of the company.

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