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Safilo: Proudly Italian Savoir Faire

Melanie Kell | 26 June 2017
Safilo is an Italian company that’s steeped in history, yet sits at the forefront of eyewear design, manufacturing, marketing and distribution.

Safilo was established back in 1934 by Guglielmo Tabacchi, following his acquisition of a frame and lens manufacturing facility that dates back to 1878.

With an extraordinary stable, comprising some of the world’s biggest names in fashion, this is a company that reaches almost every market segment, from the atelier, through to fashion luxury, contemporary, mass cool and sport.

Safilo carries the licence to design and manufacture eyewear for Dior, Fendi, Hugo Boss, Elie Saab, Fossil, Celine, Givenchy, Havaianas, Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade New York, Marc Jacobs, Max Mara and Pierre Cardin. The Italian eyewear company owns Carrera, Polaroid, Smith, Oxydo and its eponymous brand, Safilo.

While looking forward has been critical to the company’s success in maintaining the relevance of each brand, Safilo does not shy away from reflecting on the past.  Recently it returned its iconic proprietary frame, the Safilo Elasta 3022, to the market. Originally created 50 years ago, this new improved frame features an enhanced, patented Safilo Elasta hinge. It’s come a long way since 1967.

An International Flavour

As you’d imagine, close attention is paid to design in an effort to capture the DNA of each of the fashion brands in its corresponding eyewear – both aesthetically and technically, through combinations of materials and innovation.

With a global customer base, Safilo is also keen to ensure its frames have international appeal. To this end, each collection within the stable targets a unique consumer group and is designed in one of five studios around the world, ensuring truly international influences are brought to the table. Two studios in Padova focus on fashion luxury, a studio in Portland designs sports and outdoor frames, the Milanese studio designs eyewear for the mass market / cool categories while Safilo’s New York studio specialises in lifestyle eyewear. A sixth design studio recently opened in Hong Kong.

A Prestigious Following

It’s hardly surprising that Safilo has licences to design and manufacture some of the world’s most prestigious brands. After all, Guglielmo’s passion for craftsmanship continues to be upheld, with frames and lenses still manufactured in its directly owned factories – four in Italy, and one in each of Slovenia, US and China.

Quality and brand relevance, from design through to distribution, is maintained by having clear systems in place, regardless of the studio of origin or the factory of manufacture. Trends conveyed by the design studios are confirmed through market analysis before being designed and produced as model prototypes. An intense stage of research and development is undertaken to test different materials in an effort to come up with the ultimate frame that translates the brand values before prototypes are created for approval.

The selected few that pass through to industrialisation are rendered using 3D CAD technology before equipment is prepared and sales samples are produced. It’s only then that the collection’s first batch can be produced.

Some of those frames are manufactured using Optyl, a thermo-setting plastic material innovated and trademarked by Safilo itself. Extremely lightweight and durable, Optyl is comfortable to wear because the material adapts to the face. Additionally, with no plasticisers, it is hypoallergenic and special surface coating protects the frame from corrosion caused by sweat and cosmetics. From a design perspective, Optyl enables Safilo to produce frames in outstanding colour and with three-dimensional effects.

Continuing the Tradition

In the face of an increasingly competitive, product driven world, Safilo is determined to continue its tradition of Italian craftsmanship. In 2014 the company marked its 80th anniversary by opening the Safilo Product School. The school offers an apprenticeship program in the art of creating eyewear in the historical Italian tradition. Apprentices are trained in product creation, from design to development, from prototyping to production, materials, quality, prices, and concept selling. This is key to Safilo, which believes it is the artisanal excellence of its product, placed at the centre of quality modern company management, integrated on a global scale, that stands the company apart from the rest… and will continue to do so well into the future.  

Celebrating a Rich Heritage

Safilo is dedicated to archiving and documenting its designs and manufactured eyewear, with archives located in Italy containing examples of every piece of eyewear the company has ever manufactured. According to Safilo, this forms one of the most important private collections dedicated to eyewear in the world.

In 2017 Safilo launched Safilo Galleria – which it claims to be “the first digital museum in the world entirely dedicated to eyewear and the technology and everlasting charm of its industry”, highlighting “the role that Safilo has played as an historical leader of eyewear”.

GalleriaSafilo.com allows guests to view and download 300 unique pieces from the permanent collection. This includes glasses that have belonged to Elvis Presley, Madonna and Elton John.  

' each collection… is designed in one of five studios around the world, ensuring truly international influences... '