Farewell to a Visionair

We pride ourselves on solely promoting independent eyewear and just “Ignore” the big-box brands while empowering passionate designers. But to ignore the passing of such an iconic visionair as Leonardo del Vecchio, is something we just cannot do.

Leo and I met 20 years ago, and even though we did not always see eye to eye, I was intrigued by his story of how he grew from an orphan into a conglomerate leader, and the impact he had on our industry. So it did make me very sad to hear that this optical icon had left us at the age of 87.

Born on May 22, 1935, Del Vecchio grew up poor in war-torn Milan. Unable to care for her son, his mother, widowed just months before he was born, sent him to an orphanage when he was seven. He began working as an apprentice to a tool and dye manufacturer in Milan when he was 14.

In the 1960s Del Vecchio moved to set up his own shop in the town of Agordo, in the Italian Alps north of Venice, from where his small supplier of eyeglass frame parts transformed into the global leader in optical, Luxottica. Del Vecchio grew Luxottica to become a leader in the design, manufacture, and distribution of some of the biggest name brands in eyewear, including  Ray-Ban, Oakley, Vogue Eyewear, Persol, Oliver Peoples, Arnette, Costa del Mar, and Alain Mikli, as well as licensed brands including Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Bulgari, Chanel, Coach, Dolce&Gabbana, Ferrari, Michael Kors, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & Co., Valentino, and Versace.

Del Vecchio was constantly making deals and growing Luxottica, eventually merging his company with lens giant Essilor to become EssilorLuxottica forming an eyewear leviathan with a market capitalization of about 57 billion euros.

  • Giovanni VitaloniGiovanni VitaloniPresident of ANFAO / MIDO

    With the disappearance of Cav. Del Vecchio the world of eyewear loses the man who was the first to understand the potential of an object that, from a medical tool, has been transformed into an indispensable fashion accessory: a Copernican revolution in the sector.. He was a visionary, the first in Italy in the business world to recognize a great commercial outlet in the American market, seizing expansion opportunities first directly through his company, then with important acquisitions. It is precisely the acquisitions and mergers that have built the policy that has lead the company to expand its field of action from production to distribution on a global scale.

  • Paolo GentiloniPaolo GentiloniEuropean Economy Commissioner

    Leonardo Del Vecchio was a great Italian. His story, from orphanage to leadership of a business empire, seems like a story from another time. But it is an example for today and tomorrow. RIP,

  • Giorgio ArmaniGiorgio ArmaniFashion designer

    I’ve lost a friend, first, and a companion in this long professional adventure,” designer Giorgio Armani said in a tweet. “Your passing afflicts me deeply.

We salute this optical pioneer, and although we do not salute the path that his company has taken, and the effect it has on independent designers and independent boutiques, we are grateful for the fact that he was the true pioneer to take eyewear out of the zone of a medical necessity and into the zone of a true fashion accessory! Rest in peace Cavaliere!

Author: maarten weidemaAfter being a freelance eyewear designer since 1999, TEF founder Maarten Weidema now solely writes about his fellow designers in the optical industry. His passionate mission is to promote independent eyewear to the international optical arena, backed up by a large group of bloggers and journalists from all over the world. He has recently been awarded "International Optical Personality of the Year", "Leading Innovator in Optical Social Media Marketing", "Social Media Marketing Company of the Year" and received several awards for "best eyewear blog" for his efforts to promote independent eyewear to a community of 517.000 eyecare professionals.

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