Choice or the illusion of choice? Dsquared2 and the sunglasses market.

“I think it’s wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly”

Stephen Wright, comedian

Until a few years ago I used to wear Tom Ford’s “Ramone” shades. Now that I have gone “All D2”, I love my “Andie” sunglasses (advertisment campaign below).

Little did I know that both were made by the same company: Marcolin. Founded in 1961 by Giovanni Marcolin Coffen and based in Longarone, Italy, and it produces and distributes collections for several other brands including Tom Ford, Balenciaga, Ermenegildo Zegna, Roberto Cavalli, Tod’s, Emilio Pucci, Diesel…

The eyewear market is actually one of the most concentrated in fashion. There are only a handful of players, most of them dwarfed by the domination of the giant Luxottica. The latter even controls brands that you would have thought were independent, like Persol, Oakley and Ray-Ban. In terms of more “fashion” labels it is the licensee for Chanel, Armani, Dolce&Gabbana, Prada, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren…As it also owns the Sunglass Hut retail brand, the group controls 80% of the sunglasses market from design stage to distribution to the consumer, which is rather scary as it can set the prices it fancies, the other smaller players would probably follow to not feel devalued.

The Safilo Group, far behind, is the licensee for Dior, Fendi, Céline and Marc Jacobs.

Marchon holds licenses from Calvin Klein, Valentino, Salvatore Ferragamo and Chloé.

De Rigo holds Lanvin, Loewe and Carolina Herrera;

Marcolin is therfore a small fish in comparison to the first two (valued at €500 million) despite the exclusive brands it works with.

It is a bit mad to think of the “illusion of choice” we have.

Of course we do not know the level of designer input. Note that in January 2017 it was announced that LVMH was aquiring 10% of the company, in order to get more control over the manufacturing for its brands, like Emilio Pucci.

Knowing the man’s philosophy, there is a good chance that someone like Tom Ford meticulously designs every single model that Marcolin will then produce, using the company’s know-how in terms of physically making the frames (basically the opposite of Pierre Cardin in the 70’s, who left complete freedom to a countless number of licencees).

If this freedom left to the designer is the “culture of the house” at Marcolin, we can hope that Dean and Dan directly control the design of most frames. They probably came up with the names…Patrick, Nick, Damon…

Models like Ophelia or Elizabeth (below) which are decorated with Swarowski crystals must be at least partially designed by Petteri Hemmilä, chief accessories designer at D2.

Anyways, I genuinely like many of the D2 frames, both for correction lenses and for sun protection. Some colours are bold and set them apart from many competitors who stay within more classic boundaries. For instance the green, pink, orange frames from a few seasons ago were very playful and would normally have been associated with kids sunglasses. Yet, accompanied by a masterful adverstising campaign, they became an object of desire.

Also important, a certain proportion of the models sold each season correspnd to the spirit of the clothes collection. We can recognise in “Cara” or “Kim” the vibe of “D2ynasty” (see below), combining bright colours with leopard prints.

Next purchase I think: a pair of “Grant“, so that I can still wear something similar-ish to my Tom Ford “Ramone“, but in D2. Even though they might have been made by the same guy on the same table…


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