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How do you create luxury eyewear?

We asked the CEO of the Akoni Group, Rosario Toscano

How do you create luxury eyewear? We asked the CEO of the Akoni Group, Rosario Toscano

Last week, on the eve of the beginning of MIDO Milano, we met with the CEO of the Akoni Group, Rosario Toscano, who shared with us the extraordinary journey that led him to found the group, which now holds the eyewear production licenses for Valentino and Balmain. Initially an optician, Toscano decided to found the group after many years leading Dita: «In 2019, I thought it was time to work on my project, bringing with us all the values I believe in. At the end of the year, I founded Akoni Group in Switzerland, in Lugano, and the first project we developed was with Balmain, which we launched in February. Then, during the lockdown, I decided to introduce a new brand within the group, and already the following year, we launched Akoni. Last year, instead, we started the partnership with Valentino.» Speaking about the values in the eyewear industry, Toscano emphasizes the importance of eyewear in fashion: «The reason why brands in general do not produce glasses is related to two fundamental factors: the first is that glasses are a medical device and present difficulties in terms of design - which is profoundly different from that of the fashion world; the second is distribution, since shoes and bags are sold in stores and glasses are sold for 90% by opticians - a channel where brands have no weight, no distribution, no know-how. Historically, this has led to the birth of Luxottica, which over the years has created an empire by licensing on behalf of brands.»

But this world is changing: Toscano cites Kering and LVMH's decision to launch Kering Eyewear and Thelios as a watershed moment. «When I founded Akoni, my intention was certainly to create my own brand, but also to somehow try to raise both the quality and distribution of eyewear in the fashion world because it has always been treated as a simple moneymaker.» But there's more: even the latest developments in luxury have influenced a sector that Toscano describes as «an elephant, an industry that changes at an embarrassingly slow pace compared to others,» trying to position their brand higher in the market. «The concept of brand equity has become very important, which is why Hermès does not make glasses, for example, and companies are gradually realizing that selling many glasses gives a lot of visibility in the market but is no longer an advantage because it makes them too accessible.» The elevation Toscano speaks of is achieved on one hand through the engineering development of glasses, on the other it is that of materials and production, entirely carried out in Japan. «Made in Japan for glasses is like Made in Switzerland for watches. Glasses produced in Japan are superior from a technical point of view, but above all from that of materials - we for example use only titanium, the most expensive metal that has 30% more lightness and 50% more durability and resistance than any other. Japanese acetate instead is cotton-based, not petrol-based, and also has a solidity characteristic that is markedly different from any other material. In addition, Made in Japan certainly has a technology far superior to other countries.»

Regarding the longevity of glasses, Toscano explains the concept of "timeless" that he wanted to implement with Akoni Group: «A timeless glass aligns with the face, body, and way of dressing of the wearer in a neutral manner. Take for example these glasses,» he says, picking up a pair of sunglasses with round lenses and a grooved titanium frame reminiscent of watch bezels, «if you get it today, no one will tell you, in three years, that the glasses seem from collections made years ago. Also, a lot comes from communication. When it comes to glasses, many fashion brands push, hammer with their communication for six months and then six months later, that glasses is no longer even in the collection and whoever buys it feels like they have an outdated model. For us, the concept of developing a product that shouldn't be a one-off, but over time can give you depth, is essential.» Toscano's ethics have already led his group to achieve important results, and he also has confidence in the future of his industry: «The biggest change that could happen in the future would be to have the possibility to order lenses online, as in the United States, cutting out the optical channel and lowering costs,» he says. «I would say it's a healthy market for several reasons: the first is that we are increasingly on the face of the Earth, so sooner or later you'll have to have glasses; plus, the planet is aging, with a growing population we tend to live much longer, so from forty years old and up, in one way or another, you need to have a prescription glasses. Then, in the past, you bought only one pair of glasses, today you buy three, four, five - there are people who have ten pairs of glasses.» Finally, Toscano shares his vision for the future: «If I were to talk about one of the goals I have as the leader of this company for the future of the company, it would definitely be to continue on the path we are taking.» A path undertaken with determination and dedication to position the Akoni Group as the undisputed leader in the high-end eyewear industry.