Modo Eyewear expands global footprint of Modo, Eco brands, deploys charity initiatives
Modo Eyewear has been designing, manufacturing and distributing glasses frames since 1990, when it was founded in New York, and currently owns two brands, Modo and Eco. The latter was launched in 2009 and is focused on sustainability. Over time, the two brands have significantly increased their international retail footprint, and they continue to deploy charitable and green initiatives.
Modo Eyewear runs its international business from offices located in via Ippolito Nievo in Milan, and is led by CEO Giovanni Lo Faro, who took charge of the group working from its US headquarters in 2005. “I worked for Modo for about two years in New York. Then, in 2009, Alessandro Lanaro [who founded Modo Eyewear together with his brother Mauro, who later left the company] and myself launched the group into Europe,” said Lo Faro talking to FashionNetwork.com at the Modo Eyewear stand at Milanese eyewear show Mido. “At the time, my partner decided to manufacture our glasses in Asia, notably in Japan, in order to differentiate our product. There was plenty of made-in-Italy eyewear around, and everything in the industry was very much the same. We wanted to do something different. We’ve now gone back to manufacturing certain product categories in Italy,” added Lo Faro.
The Modo brand is more sophisticated and design-focused, while Eco is the more sustainable brand. In terms of pricing, Modo is positioned in the mid-to-high-end bracket (its models retail at approximately €200), while Eco is in the medium-low bracket (retailing at approximately €100).
“When we developed Eco, we told ourselves we didn’t want a second line that was very similar to the main one, causing consumers to confuse the two, as has often happened in fashion. Instead, we wanted to launch a concept that was wholly different from Modo, a more environmentally friendly complement in terms of style and design,” said Lo Faro. “We started out with a pretty basic product, and we had to pay the price for the fact that the industry did not really understand the eco-sustainability concepts we were advocating. After three-four years, around 2013-14, the landscape became increasingly receptive, and we further expanded our project achieving significant results, while constantly improving our products. There was some cross-fertilisation between the two brands: one brought inspiration to the other in a different domain, but the second brand taught something to the first,” he added.
Behind every pair of Eco glasses (from the pouch to all the components that go with the products in-store) there is a sustainability study: “Each of these elements is the most sustainable that can be found on the market, or the greenest we’re able to develop ourselves working with our suppliers,” said Lo Faro. “We’ve even managed to optimise logistics, placing as many boxes as possible in a shipping carton to minimise waste,” he added.
The Eco brand's products are developed using four different eco-sustainable materials, for example frames made from bio-based acetate. Recently, Eco has been linked to a highly specific marketing initiative, based on a one-for-one concept. For each pair of Eco glasses sold, a tree is planted as part of the ‘One Frame, One Tree’ project. At Mido, the group celebrated the milestone of having planted 3.3 million trees in Africa through this initiative, in the 13 years during which Eco has been on the market.
With Modo, the group instead thought of doing good by turning its gaze towards less affluent regions of the world, setting up an initiative that helped 1.3 million schoolchildren in India, who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to glasses.
Modo Eyewear products are available at 20,000 addresses in over 80 countries, with 7,000 clients in Europe, 1,500 of them in Italy. The group defines itself “a company with a purpose, with a social mission that goes beyond mere business, as far as developing a Sustainability Report,” said Lo Faro. The group’s main market is the USA, accounting for 50% of revenue. “The company is more established in the US, where it has been present for long,” said Lo Faro.
Italy is one of the group’s main markets in Europe - chiefly western Europe and the UK - where the products of the two Italian-American brands are sold successfully and in geographically balanced fashion. International distributors for Modo and Eco are to be found worldwide. Prescription glasses account for 80% of the group's global revenue, while 20% comes from sunglasses, “[a segment] still dominated by brands with extensive marketing and communication investments,” noted Lo Faro. “Besides, purchasing sunglasses is a more independent choice on the part of end-consumers, while prescription glasses imply a relationship with an optician. But we are growing in the sunglasses segment too. And we’re hiring. We have several positions still open for the Milan office, but we are also hiring for our warehouse in Veneto,” he added.
Modo Eyewear’s revenue has grown in double digits until 2021, at an average annual rate of 30% (the group was included in the Sole 24 Ore ranking of growth leaders for five consecutive years). Because of the headwinds caused by war and inflation, revenue grew in single digits in 2022.
The group is working on a new launch in a relatively new category, though still in the glasses segment, said Lo Faro. “We are very pleased with the way in which Modo and Eco complement each other. Two brands with different concepts, speaking different languages, but still expressing the same philosophy, based on innovation, on providing functional added value for opticians, and on being a company with a purpose,” concluded Lo Faro.
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