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MIDO 2018: Safilo celebrates 140 years of eyewear manufacturing tradition




Padua, February 2018 – Safilo Group, the fully integrated Italian eyewear creator, manufacturer and worldwide distributor of quality and trust, celebrates 140 years of eyewear manufacturing tradition which dates back to the foundation of its very first Italian manufacturing site dedicated to eyewear.
It was in 1878 that a manufacturing site was first opened to produce lenses and frames in Calalzo di Cadore, in the Venetian Alps. The Safilo name dates back to 1934, when Guglielmo Tabacchi bought this first Italian production site and founded a new eyewear company, making it the oldest player in the Italian eyewear industry.
As a manufacturing company that bases its values on tradition, excellence, savoir-faire and innovation, Safilo is building precisely on this legacy, fostering the incredible craftsmanship and technical innovations of its highly skilled artisans, expanding its advanced in-house manufacturing capabilities and introducing groundbreaking technologies that pave the way for the company’s sustainable future growth.
Celebrating 140 years of eyewear tradition reflects the corporate objective of preserving and enhancing Safilo’s traditional savoir-faire while emphasizing ties with the region where this same tradition was born. It also means acknowledging the incredible range of craft skills preserved by the artisans working with passion and dedication behind every single pair of glasses. These skills will only survive if they live in each generation; they provide a link to the company’s roots and are part of Safilo’s shared heritage which is now projected into the future thanks to Safilo’s Eyewear Product School, a three-year apprenticeship program – launched in 2014 – offering on the job training that will secure the further sustainability of this unique mastering of Italian manufacturing traditions.
As a commitment to craftsmanship and innovation – past, present, and future – Safilo, in fact, established its very first Eyewear Product School based on the northern European model of apprenticeship schools. With the creation of the Product School, Safilo recognizes its great responsibility to train a new generation of expert artisans, share know-how and preserve the culture, techniques and passion for eyewear, all in the name of Made in Italy.

The same purpose is perpetuated by Galleria Safilo, the virtual museum exclusively dedicated to eyewear history which highlights the role of Safilo Group as the historical industry leader and founder of the Italian eyewear manufacturing tradition.  Safilo also owns one of the world’s most important private collections dedicated to eyewear.


Today, Safilo designs, creates, manufactures and distributes iconic eyewear collections of its prestigious and unique portfolio of leading international brands that covers five key consumer segments:
Atelier with Elie Saab and Oxydo;
Fashion/Luxury with Dior, Jimmy Choo, Moschino, rag&bone and Fendi, Max Mara, Moschino Love and Hugo Boss;
Contemporary Lifestyle with Carrera, Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger, kate spade new york and Fossil;
Sports and Outdoor with Smith;
Mass/Cool with Polaroid, havaianas and Swatch-the-Eyes.

Today, Safilo possesses a unique heritage, expertise and savoir-faire with the ability to break the mold and bring innovation to the industry through its design studios in Padova, Milan, Hong Kong, New York and Portland and with its seven owned production plants that play a unique role in the market worldwide.
In 2017, Safilo opened its Atelier Division which includes the first brands that offer exquisite and differing Atelier Eyewear expressions to the most discerning customers across the world with an exclusive new eyewear selection of highly sophisticated brands. Safilo’s Atelier artisans boast decades of eyewear expertise, often combined with the art of jewelry and watch creation. They expertly create unique Masterpieces and Atelier Limited Editions featuring sophisticated materials, stones and precious metals – chiseling every element with care and attention – in an environment that quietly celebrates the decades-long tradition of genuine handmade eyewear with its very own soul and conviction.

From the oldest manufacturing site to the latest integrated technology for smart glasses which Safilo launched in 2017, the SafiloX Smith Lowdown Focus is the first market-ready output built on the SafiloX brain sensing eyewear platform. A piece of eyewear uniquely designed and crafted to enhance performance with seamlessly integrated EEG technology.  The benefits of cognitive training on well-being include heightened sense of self-awareness, increased focus and lower stress. These innovative smart sunglasses, combined with the Smith Focus app, deliver this training by integrating Interaxon’s MuseTM brain-sensing technology into the popular and stylish Smith Lowdown frames. The result is a beautifully designed and lightweight pair of sunglasses that anyone can sport every day.


The starting point of this fascinating story links back to the foundation of the first manufacturing site in Calalzo di Cadore (in the old mill near the Molinà river) which gave life to a unique tradition deeply rooted in these original values which still identify the soul of the company. During its continuous growth from being the pioneer in the Eyewear sector to becoming the unique point of reference during the progress from pure craftsmanship to industrial manufacturing, Safilo still maintains its unsurpassed manufacturing expertise and is known for having invented the industrialization of eyewear without trivializing it.

The first eyewear frame, developed between 1880 and 1900, was a pince-nez frame, consisting of a metal sliding bar connecting the lenses, entirely handcrafted. This optical frame soon evolved into a more elaborate rounded-shape style with temples and more qualitative lenses, whose production began around 1896. In these decades, most of the frames were produced in nickel silver, patented in 1827, or in bronze. 

Between 1910 and 1920, optical frames are developed mainly as a functional and medical device, becoming fundamental to offering the possibility of a better vision; this period also sees the first manufacturing site to grow and enlarge production. Masks and sunglasses for aviators are introduced during the period between the World Wars: eyewear is still considered as a functional item, also used for workers.

In the 1920s, celluloid, a plastic material patented in the U.S. in 1870, was introduced in the production phases as the first plastic material and is employed until 1950s, thus allowing to diversify the offering in terms of shapes and materials.   

During these decades, with the flourishing of many artistic waves and cultural movements, the eyewear design also becomes more creative, reflecting more appealing and art-inspired shapes.  In this period, frames and sunglasses are no longer considered simply as a medical device and start becoming a fashion accessory with Peggy Guggenheim –  the renowned collector of 20th century European avant-garde art – becoming popular both for her art commitment and for her Surrealist-inspired glasses.

In 1934, Guglielmo Tabacchi founded Safilo, the first company fully dedicated to the production of eyewear. Also, the production of eyewear moves toward industrialization with the introduction of new machinery and new working techniques aiming at improving the production, such as the rolling mill used to mold metal sheets, and the pantograph employed for engraving.

At the same time, in 1937, in the U.S, Edwin Herbert Land invented polarized lenses and founded Polaroid, thus revolutionizing the world of technology and optics, thanks to the perfect and distortion-free vision assured by these innovative lenses.  

In this decade of economic growth – between Dolce Vita and Pop-Art – eyewear is increasingly perceived as a fashion item, thus becoming the protagonist of advertising imagery, reflecting the look and feel of the time and showing shapes destined to remain timeless icons of reference. Butterfly sunglasses, embellished with crystals, oversized shapes decorated with colorful graphics, iconic cat-eye frames worn by Marylin Monroe and the refined spectacles worn by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor are the shapes that marked this era.

In the meantime, in Austria in 1956, Wilhelm Anger founded Carrera, a company dedicated to the production of protection and sports eyewear. Shortly after, in 1964, Carrera patented Optyl, a trademark which identifies a thermosetting plastic material with exceptional qualities: lighter than acetate and all other materials, perfectly adaptable to fit the wearer’s face, extremely comfortable and durable, and hypoallergenic.

In 1965, Smith Optics was founded in Sun Valley, Idaho, specialized in the creation of high-performing ski-goggles and helmets. Later, in 1996, both Carrera and Smith joined Safilo.  

From mass consumption to mass entertainment, movie artists and music stars in this decade become hugely popular and their sunglasses make a statement, eventually becoming a symbol of their style as their favorite accessory.  

Materials evolved as well; acetate was introduced as a more innovative and qualitative plastic material, and new manufacturing techniques were developed.
Technological innovation was also underway.  In 1971, Safilo introduced the Elasta hinge, an innovative double-spring system assuring the utmost comfort and perfect fit, and, in 1979, presented the outstanding UFO technology: a patented lens mounting system based on a metal wire running directly around the lenses.

Celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Beyonce, along with top fashion influencers, become testimonials and ambassadors for fashion brands with eyewear defining and enhancing their personality, as seen with the iconic DiorSoReal sunglasses in most recent years.

Eyewear is perceived as a luxury accessory. Styles are embellished with rhinestones, crystals, leather and gold-plated finishing, as seen in the ultra-luxury Elie Saab and Jimmy Choo models, or developed with the state-of-the-art technologies, such as POLAROID Twist sunglasses in ultra-flexible rubber material, or SMITH Lowdown Focus sunglasses that integrate the latest brain-sensing and cognitive training technology, and SAFILO new Elasta hinge in titanium with the most comfortable double spring system.

New materials are introduced, such as carbon fiber, titanium, ultralight metal, which allow frames to become lighter than ever, while ski-googles get increasingly safer and more comfortable thanks to the introduction of the Coroyd shell. 3D print technology gives a contemporary vibe to the most-cutting edge collections, such as OXYDO, while bio-based materials are used in the uniquely sustainable offer dedicated to the specific needs of children.

Special collaborations with renowned designers and emerging artists offer a new twist to eyewear collections.  Examples include Safilo collaborating with designers Marcel Wanders and Marc Newson, and Max Mara collaborating with artists Maya Hayuk and Shantell Martin.

About Safilo
Safilo is the fully integrated Italian eyewear creator and worldwide distributor of quality and trust, leader in the premium sector for sunglasses, optical frames and sports eyewear. Design inspired and brand driven, Safilo translates extraordinary design into excellent products created thanks to superior craftsmanship expertise dating back to 1878. With an extensive wholly owned global distribution network in 40 countries – in North and Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific and China – Safilo is committed to quality distribution of its products all around the world. Safilo’s portfolio encompasses Carrera, Polaroid, Smith, Safilo, Oxydo, Dior, Dior Homme, Fendi, Banana Republic, Bobbi Brown, BOSS, BOSS Orange, Elie Saab, Fossil, Givenchy, havaianas, Jack Spade, Jimmy Choo, Juicy Couture, kate spade new york, Liz Claiborne, Love Moschino, Marc Jacobs, Max Mara, Max&Co., Moschino, Pierre Cardin, rag&bone, Saks Fifth Avenue, Swatch, and Tommy Hilfiger.
Listed on the Italian Stock Exchange (ISIN code IT0004604762, Bloomberg SFL.IM, Reuters SFLG.MI), in 2016 Safilo recorded net revenues for Euro 1,253 million.

Safilo Press Office
Antonella Leoni
Milan – Ph. +39 02 77807607
Padua – Ph. +39 049 6986021

Last update: 07/03/2018, 13:21

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