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Eye to Eye: In Conversation with Davide Righetto of Kering Eyewear

The Italian luxury eyewear group carries some of the most celebrated and prestigious brands in the world, from Gucci to Saint Laurent.

By Cherry Lai
July 26, 2021

A glance through the dozen-plus-strong portfolio of Kering Eyewear reveals an incredibly thoughtful and well-balanced curation: historically iconic maisons the likes of Gucci, Cartier, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Chloé, and Alexander McQueen sit next to more niche, independent favourites, such as the newly acquired, family-run Danish eyewear brand Lindberg that specialises in handmade titanium frames.

It’s hard to think that the Italy-based eyewear group (headquartered within the gorgeously restored Villa Zaguri just outside of picturesque Padova) was found barely seven years ago in 2014. Yet, thanks to CEO Roberto Vedovotto’s vision to upend the traditional luxury fashion eyewear distributing model, and instead take back ownership across everything from creative design to development so to craft pieces that can truly capture and express each brand’s DNA, the group is now one of the world’s leading luxury eyewear companies.

Photo: Kering Eyewear; Cartier's Blue & Beyond selection

With a focus on innovation, sustainability, and connection with local consumers, Kering Eyewear has seen particular success in Asia, with past campaigns fronted by ambassadors like Blackpink’s Rosé (for Saint Laurent), Yang Yang (for Dunhill), Bai Jing Ting (for Mont Blanc) and more, garnering much fanfare.

Recently, we had a chance to sit down with Davide Righetto, head of Asia Pacific at Kering Eyewear, to pick his brain about the latest eyewear trends and how the company has stayed on top of the game in a rapidly changing fashion landscape.

How have you seen the eyewear industry evolve over the past decade, especially in Asia?

Over the past decade, we’ve seen an interesting polarisation of the demand [of eyewear] at a global level, but especially in Asia. On one hand, entry-price products are always very much appreciated, especially for fashion aspirational customers; on the other hand, luxury customers began to look at high-end eyewear as a way to complete their looks and aim at the most fashionable and expensive pieces. At Kering Eyewear, we operate in the latter high-end segment, which has seen tremendous growth over the past ten years.

Photo: Kering Eyewear; Rosé for Saint Laurent

Indeed, sunglasses are no longer just functional and have become fashion statements that are strongly tied to a brand’s identity and aesthetic. How did that come to be?

Absolutely, another trend that we have observed is the internalisation of eyewear from the big luxury groups. Understanding the great business and image potential of the eyewear category, these groups moved away from the license business model and have internalised the management of eyewear.

This has brought along a greater integration of the category in the brand’s projects – from the number of total looks to its presence across fashion shows – essentially transforming eyewear from what used to be an appendix accessory to now a key element in the brand’s world.

Photo: Kering Eyewear; Ni Ni for Gucci Eyewear

Gucci and Saint Laurent, both under Kering Eyewear, have recently tapped Chinese actress Ni Ni and Blackpink’s Rosé as ambassadors to front their respective campaigns that have gone viral. Can you tell us more about that?

As with the majority of products of the fashion world, eyewear finds its great expression in the digital dimension. It is increasingly relevant both in terms of marketing and sales in our industry, which, especially in this last year, has strongly relied on digital to sustain the business.

From a marketing perspective, the digital world strongly leverages on influencers, and this has shifted lots of investments towards paid digital initiatives and seeding, with a focus on local personalities and trends.

Our approach has become very much focused on local fashions, KOLs, fads and festivities, in Asia Pacific more so than in other regions in the world. To succeed, it has become fundamental to be fast, to be an expert on local needs, to adopt a language that is relevant, and to speak to consumers about what is close to their interests. Being unique and relevant is more than ever a key to success.

Photo: Kering Eyewear; Bai Jing Ting for Mont Blanc

What are some trends we’re seeing in local and global eyewear markets? What do you think modern customers are looking for?

Over the past few years, we have seen several trends in terms of products: metal styles are the winners as lightness remains an important factor; sunglasses with light coloured lenses that revolutionise its original outdoor usage into fashion accessories that can be worn indoors; accessories like chains and earrings are also emerging as bestsellers, again to highlight eyewear’s role as a key item in one’s total look. Of course, limited editions are very much sought after as uniqueness and exclusivity are key, especially for high-end consumers.

Nevertheless, aesthetics is not everything. Especially during this year of frequent lockdowns, we noticed that consumers tended to look for the perfect fit, functional features and beautiful shapes, a combination that, for example, can be found in the very recent Kering Eyewear Blue & Beyond project. This project combines iconic frames with qualitative dual-innovation lenses that are specifically conceived to relieve intense eyestrain both indoors and outdoors. This improved solution has been transferred to an exclusive assortment of ready-to-wear styles for some of the most coveted brands within Kering Eyewear’s portfolio.

What is next for Kering Eyewear?

Globally, we will continue our digitalisation journey on all touchpoints and keep supporting a responsible and sustainable approach towards our products, processes and people, considering sustainability key for long-term success. We have also just launched our first releases for Chloé and Dunhill, so we’ll invest our efforts in making sure that these brands represent another success story in our portfolio. Of course, we cannot forget Gucci, a key brand at a global level and especially in Asia.

Speaking of Asia Pacific in detail, while we are not going to forget the physical world, we are implementing disruptive initiatives such as our immersive digital retail concept being launched soon in major locations across Asia.