Brunello Cucinelli premieres eyewear with Oliver Peoples
Brunello Cucinelli is diversifying into eyewear. To take its first steps into this new product category, the Italian luxury label has not opted for a traditional licence, but for “a fine collaboration with Oliver Peoples, one that will last for 100 years,” joked the founder and president of the eponymous label renowned for its 100% made in Italy cashmere garments, speaking at a press conference held in Milan on Wednesday.
“This agreement is more than a simple licence. There isn’t the same kind of pressure that usually characterises a licensing relationship. Our two brands are collaborating very closely on this project. We share a profound affinity in taste and style, and we have the same quality imperative,” said Cucinelli as he unveiled the project.
Indeed, both brand names, Brunello Cucinelli and Oliver Peoples, are featured on the frames. The plan is to launch a first capsule collection of five men's and unisex eyeglasses and sunglasses models in September, in different colours. They will be distributed via the two partners’ own stores and select eyewear retailers, in total 1,500 stores worldwide.
“This collaboration goes beyond the product. We have very strong ties. In terms of style and technology, we have worked on something new and very special, something we had never produced before. We have pushed style beyond the boundaries of traditional models,” said Rocco Basilico, general manager of Oliver Peoples.
With the exception of one model worn by Cucinelli himself during the conference, the collection has not yet been presented. The only indication was that it will be entirely manufactured in Italy, even though Oliver Peoples is based in Los Angeles, and sometimes produces in Japan too. The glasses will be made in acetate, enhanced by rare materials like horn, and their retail prices will start at €350, with some models going much higher.
Oliver Peoples was founded in Los Angeles in 1987. It passed into Italian hands in 2007, when Californian group Oakley was acquired by Luxottica. Backed by one of the eyewear industry’s leading groups, it was a logical step for Oliver Peoples to set up its main production facility in Italy. In the last few years, the brand has stepped up the pace of its growth in e-tail and traditional retail. Previously, Oliver Peoples was only distributed via multibrand retailers, but now it operates 45 directly managed stores and generates a revenue of €90 million.
Cucinelli has always had a good relationship with Luxottica and its president, Leonardo Del Vecchio, who has given the green light to the project. “The two have been in touch, and decided to go ahead with this collaboration,” said Basilico.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the great Italian entrepreneurial dynasties,” said Cucinelli at the conference, explaining his choice of partner. It is worth mentioning that Oliver Peoples’s young boss, Basilico, who is 32 and has been active in the company since 2016, is the eldest son of Nicoletta Zampillo, Del Vecchio’s current wife.
For Brunello Cucinelli, this diversification into eyewear may herald other line extensions, for example in fragrance or cosmetics. Cucinelli said he is open to new ventures, “provided they are expressions of excellence,” and underlined that his label “needs to be underpinned, for 85% of its business, by high-end menswear and womenswear.”
The entrepreneur-designer took advantage of the conference to present another “very important” project called ‘Solomeo’, from the name of the medieval hamlet close to Perugia, in Umbria, that Cucinelli has entirely rebuilt and where the label's headquarters and design studios are based. Nothing else about this top-secret project, Cucinelli's own “dream,” was disclosed, except that it “is designed to last for 1,000 years,” and that it will be presented in Milan in October.
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