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Leader in luxury glasses
Rome - (Adnkronos Multimedia) - A tough but straightforward progress over a period of seventy years, but without any digressions, leading from its first factory in Calalzo di Cadore, in the Province of Belluna, to world leadership in the luxury glasses sector, with sales of more than 900 million euro, accounting for more than 80 percent on international markets and having 6,700 employees divided among six factories, five of which in Italy. The history of Safilo, Società Azionaria Fabbrica Italiana Lavorazione Occhiali can be summed up very briefly. It corresponds with three entrepreneurial generations: the founder, Guglielmo Tabacchi, born in the United States and son of emigrants, who in 1934 decided to sell his ice-cream business in Warsaw and to return finally to his native land, purchasing a small factory producing glasses which had gone into bankruptcy; his son, Vittorio Tabacchi, Cavaliere del Lavoro [an honour awarded by the Italian Government] 65 years of age, with a work pattern of 14 hours a day, today president of the Safilo group; his son and daughter Massimiliano and Samantha who work together with their father Vittorio in running the firm.
Mr. Tabacchi, how do you explain the enormous success of your firm, and in general, the Italian glasses industry?
"It can be explained by the fact that we have been able to respond to a market that has completely changed its nature. The roots of this industry are in the paramedical sector: aids to vision were produced and these items were sold in pharmacies, not in fashion stores. Then, beginning in the 50s, people began to wear sunglasses and then we finally arrived at producing designer frames for glasses. Consumer demand completely changed, and we were able to respond in a positive manner".
Would you have been able to forecast all this in 1935, when Safilo began?
"Up until the 60s people were ashamed to wear glasses. It was something that announced and emphasized a defect. Remember Marilyn Monroe in 'How to marry a millionaire': she was ashamed of wearing glasses, and so went about crashing into everything. Today the exact opposite is true: people flaunt the latest model by Christian Dior or Armani, and think of glasses almost as an ornament for their bodies",
The Safilo trademark is among the most popular in the world, but you are under license from a great number of fashion designers. Can you give us their names?
"The list is quite long. Currently the latest is Marc Jacobs, from the Luis Vuitton group. But there are also Carrera, Gucci, Polo Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior, Diesel, Valentino, Cardin, Yves Saint Laurent, Armani and many others. Then there are the American brands: Fossil, Kate Spade, Jennifer Lopez. Overall we have 21 collections".
Therefore the link with the fashion sector was decisive for you?
"Absolutely. Designer glasses, most of all in the high and luxury sector of the market, was a winning choice".
And the reason for choosing this luxury sector?
"It was a calculated choice. For more than 15 years we aimed at the high sector of the market and became world leaders. You have to take into account that in the production of glasses labour costs play a big part - more than 50 percent of overall costs. And the competition from Asian producers makes it impossible to produce glasses in the lower range. Only in the high sector can we guarantee profitability and growth".
What importance do you give to technological innovation in the productive process and the product itself?
"An enormous weight. The new factory in Longarone, in the Province of Belluno, is technologically one of the most advanced at world level. And then, basically, we remain manufacturers of technical articles with the highest possible quality level. It is not just by chance that we also produce specialised contact lenses, dedicated to those carrying out particular sporting activities".
Mr. Tabacchi, what are the challenges facing Safilo in the future?
"The constant development of technological research, to be always ready to offer new solutions. And then to continue to be the first in the world in our sector".