LVMH boosts eyewear capability as it builds second Thélios factory in Italy
In April 2018, the group owned by Bernard Arnault inaugurated its first eyewear factory, located to the north of Venice and set up in partnership with Italian manufacturer Marcolin. It is called Thélios, as is the joint-venture company created by LVMH with Marcolin.
By building the Thélios factory, LVMH started the process of internalising the manufacturing of eyewear, breaking with the traditional licensing system, in which the production and especially the distribution of sunglasses and eyeglasses frames is done by a third party.
Celine, formerly licensed to Safilo, was the first label owned by LVMH whose production Thélios took over at its Longarone plant, followed by Loewe, Fred, Kenzo and Berluti.
“The construction of a second factory, as an extension of the first, began two weeks ago. It is forecast to become operational in the fourth quarter 2020, trebling the size of the production area,” said Jean-Baptiste Voisin, chief strategy officer of the LVMH group, talking to the AFP agency on Monday.
While the first plant can produce up to 1.5 million pairs per year, adding the second plant will raise output capacity to 4.5 million pairs, “with a special emphasis on prototyping,” said Voisin.
Once the two plants will become fully operational, they will employ between 600 and 700 people - as opposed to about 120 now.
“Our goal is quality. While the eyewear industry is keen on extension, in other worlds on maximising the number of retail outlets, we adopt the opposite strategy: we prefer to have fewer stores, but stores whose quality we can control, notably with the ability to trace every single pair [of glasses],” added Voisin.
For Celine eyewear, in the first year in which Thélios took over production, the label recorded a higher revenue than when it was licensed to Safilo, though it was distributed through less than half the number of stores as before.
It remains to be seen which will be the next LVMH labels whose eyewear collections will be manufactured by Thélios. In 2020, Dior’s eyewear licence agreement with Safilo will end. The luxury label is the largest within LVMH in terms of eyewear volumes and value.
Thélios’s capital is split between LVMH, with a 51% stake, and Marcolin, the industry’s third largest producer, with 49%.
Translated by Nicola Mira
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