The Italian Scene: An Interview with Giovanni Vitaloni

MIDO 2017 - Milano Eyewear Show

Last summer, Giovanni Vitaloni became president of Associazione Nazionale Fabbricanti Articoli Ottici (ANFAO). This association of manufacturers from the Italian eyewear industry, founded in 1954, brings together over 100 member companies from across the industry via various political and promotional activities, including MIDO, a world-leading annual trade show (of which he is also President).

Vitaloni hails from a family of Turin automotive industrialists and is the founder and director of the eyewear manufacturer Nico Design. With over 30 years’ experience in the eyewear industry, Vitaloni is a keen strategist and enthusiastic promoter of the Made in Italy brand, as you will see in this interview. As background, the Italian optical industry exports over 85 per cent of its production, and employs over 17,000 people nationally with earnings of over 3.5 million euros (as of 2015).

ENVISION: With so much vertical integration in the industry, are there still opportunities for optical industry start-ups in Italy?

VITALONI: On an international level, the sector is very buoyant and dynamic, and in Italy there are many new companies arriving on the market. This phenomenon is reflected in the sector’s most important fair, MIDO, which for many years has dedicated an area to start-ups from Italy and around the world via The Lab Academy. ANFAO supports growth in the sector and the old generation is giving way to the new through the creation of new groups within the association, which act as incubators for innovation and stimulate the association’s growth.

ENVISION: Overall, how is the Italian eyewear sector doing?

VITALONI: Italy is the global leader in the high-end segment. In the first half of 2017, we experienced 3.2 per cent growth in exports for sunglasses and 4.3 per cent growth for prescription frames. After about 10 years of work, there are now dozens of new Italian optical companies, with the majority manufacturing in Italy and exporting internationally.

The vast majority of Italian producers are small- to- medium-sized enterprises (SME), who handcraft their products, with particular attention to quality. Indeed, almost all Italian companies share a long tradition of excellence in the conception, creation and sale of products rich in originality and innovation, and it is on these factors that they base their business proposition. In Italy, today, our growth in SMEs rivals France and Scandinavia.

ENVISION: How has ANFAO furthered its relationship with the world of fashion?

VITALONI: We are part of an association, Confindustria Moda, which brings together other manufacturing associations in the world of fashion, in sectors such as leather goods and accessories, footwear and jewellery. This federation represents 67,000 Made in Italy companies that generate more than 88 billion euros annually. Confindustria Moda offers legal services, industrial relations management and research from its offices in Milan.


VITALONI: DaTE is an event, organized by MIDO, which blends experimentation, innovation, and luxury, and is dedicated to Italian opticians and buyers in the optics sector. At the latest event, which was held in September in Florence, there were roughly 3,500 buyers and professionals (a 40 per cent increase from last year), who came to see a preview of creations from 136 selected companies, of which more than 50 per cent were from outside Italy.

ENVISION: MIDO is already a leading optical trade show. How can it be better?

VITALONI: We focus as much as possible on the needs of exhibitors and visitors who are by nature, and rightly so in these times of rapid change, continually evolving. At MIDO 2018, we will put the spotlight on fostering innovation. You will find a spectacular emphasis on new technologies, which allow for innovation throughout the industry, in the MIDO Tech section. We create an environment that offers an immersive experience for visitors and the entire world of eyewear. MIDO’s success also comes from its ability to represent big companies, while also showcasing all market niches, which are of increasing interest for independent opticians.

By Paddy Kamen