“The beauty of our industry is that in a small space, you can have fashion, science and commerce come together, which is amazing because you don’t find that in any other retail industry”, says Kyriakos Kofinas, Commercial Head of Safilo for India Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
With the exciting launch of Safilo’s “Shades of the season”, along with the brand’s latest eyewear venture – Elie Saab Eyewear, Mr Kofinas tells us more about the leading eyewear brand and the rising crossover between the optical and fashion industries.
Tell us about your journey so far. I have been in the business for 28 years. I’ve been at Safilo for the last 6 years and it has been the greatest experience because it is a really fascinating industry. It combines the beauty and the magic of the fashion industry with the B2B trade, commercial relationships and partnerships of opticians and distributors.
Tell us about Safilo. Safilo, which is more than a hundred years old, is really the definition of a global eyewear creator and handcrafted savoir faire, because we have a really big heritage of creating glasses and sunglasses. We are present in 39 countries through subsidiaries and another 70 countries through global partners.
With more and more designers starting eyewear lines and including sunglasses on the runway, it is clear that eyewear has become a big fashion statement. What are your thoughts on the relationship between the fashion and optical industries? I think big eyewear companies have really built a big heritage on design, on material and also more recently, on technology. So it is really becoming a big fashion statement.
How does Safilo leverage this relationship? At Safilo, there are 5 different ranges according to consumer needs. They start with the very high end, Atelier segment, where we have Elie Saab – which we just launched, in South Africa. Then we have the luxury segment, which includes Dior, Fendi, Jimmy Choo, Max Mara and Marc Jacobs. Then we have the fashion contemporary segment which includes Carrera and Tommy Hilfiger. Then we have the mass cool segment which includes Polaroid, Havaianas and Swatch. Then we have the sports segment. Safilo is among the very few brands that is present in all five segments with very strong brands. So as a global eyewear creator we cover all of the needs of the consumer.
Why did you decide to bring Elie Saab to the SA market? South Africa is an important country for us and Africa is an important continent, with a lot of potential. We strongly believe that the community and the consumers here have a strong fashion orientation, they like fashion brands and they like luxury, that’s we introduced the two missing brands in the portfolio – Elie Saab Haute Couture and Dior. Elie Saab was created by Safilo and is selectively distributed by Safilo. Dior has been our fastest growing brand for the last three years
What are the trends in eyewear in 2017/2018? Trends are important and we are trend setters. I think there is a focus on unconventional shapes. I think consumers are brave enough now to try different shapes because they see eyewear as a fashion accessory. There is also a trend towards the 90s, so it’s quite retro, small sized shapes. But at the same time because shapes are the focus, we also have the oversized trend. We also have statement browlines which are classic styles which are subverted. There is also a trend towards genderless eyewear. We are also seeing light pop colours and also burgundy.
How does Safilo stay ahead in a fast paced, fashion and optical industry? We are a global eyewear creator with a very strong Italian DNA so we are always going back to our roots and really setting the fashion trends in the industry. We also pay a lot of attention on design. We have 7 design labs all over the world and over 140 designers who design for all of our brands and capture all of the different trends. We take inspiration from the fashion houses and global fashion friends and that is why we are well known as a leader in luxury and designer eyewear.
What is the future of eyewear? Eyewear is fashion accessory but technology is also on the rise now. Safilo is among the leading companies in the race of technology. We have a fantastic partnership with Interaxon, the world leader in consumer brain-sensing technology, and we have developed SafiloX, a new eyewear platform designed to infuse the latest brain-sensing and cognitive training technology into lifestyle and iconic eyewear in the Safilo portfolio. So technology and innovation is where we are heading. There is also a lot of experimentation with shapes, size and materials.