Shine with Jimmy Choo X Safilo
posted by Sydney Byron and Nirahja (Raiel) Logan
This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by LIM students with winners of the Accessories Council's 2020 Design Excellence Awards (DEA). Students are enrolled in Fashion Merchandising Professor Andrea Kennedy's Honors Introduction to the Fashion Business class.
We were introduced to our four amazing interviewers Eden Wexler, Lauren Michael, Hayley Friel and Victoria Hallberg on Microsoft Teams.
In classic COVID-19 fashion, our interview with the Safilo executives was held virtually over Microsoft Teams. We ran into some trouble using the software and getting used to the technology. The meeting was postponed by 10 minutes to work out how to use Teams and ensure that everyone was adequately linked in order to start. Needless to say, we were nervous, but our conversation was worth the wait.
Safilo Group is one of the eyewear industry’s principal players in the design, manufacturing and distribution of optical frames, sunglasses and sports eyewear as well as goggles and helmets. Headquartered in Padua, Italy, Safilo produces roughly 1700 frames per year including sunglasses and optical lens frames.
Eden Wexler is the Director of Public Relations and oversees trade marketing communications for North America. Victoria Hallberg is the Executive Vice President of Sales West, and she is tasked with directing alliance groups, the training and education department, and brand ambassador teams. Lauren Michael, who heads product creation for Safilo North America, works closely with the design team to translate each frame design into final product. Hayley Friel is a design director based out of Safilo’s New York showroom and works with the contemporary design team for U.S.- based brands. After the Safilo team introductions, they took time to ask about our majors, dream jobs, and more. The Safilo team was so gracious and interactive and made us feel very comfortable and ready for the interview.
We kicked things off by discussing Safilo's recent win of an Accessories Council Design Excellence Award for best eyewear in the sunglasses category for their Jimmy Choo Shine sunglasses. We asked Hallberg how they came up with the winning design. She explained to us how all styles for Safilo’s European-based brands are designed by their team in Italy. They also work closely with the Jimmy Choo design staff in the UK. Hallberg described the product’s evolution as “A creation that was cultivated between both the Safilo and the fashion house’s design team, to create a beautiful, unique and award-winning design.” We proceeded to ask Friel how she would describe the winning product design. She described how the oval-shaped eyewear with clip-on chain has been very popular due to its on-trend shape and convertible characteristic. The “Shine” sunglasses’ clip-on frame features hand-applied Swarovski crystals and the chain can be detached and worn as a necklace. This gives the customer a choice to be either “super glamorous or super chic and cool.” Hallberg informed us that the “Shine” sunglasses are sold in upscale retail stores, on jimmychoo.com, and in high end luxury boutiques. The retail price is $570.
We proceeded to ask each of the teammates how long they have been working for Safilo and what their favorite part of working there is. All four women had different and interesting responses. Hallberg has worked there for two-and-a-half years and said her favorite part of working at the company is their focus on sustainability in addition to being the best eyewear company in the world. She explained, “It's such a great feeling to work for a company that has this kind of a history and continues to invest in the best manufacturing.” Michael has worked there for four years and responded that her favorite part was the team dynamic. She stated, “We learn so much from each other. There’s such a great synergy between all of the teams.” Friel has worked for Safilo for two years and loves how international the company is. They have design offices in the U.S., Italy, and Hong Kong. “You get all types of ideas, inspiration and thoughts across different countries and from people with other backgrounds.” Lastly, Wexler, who has been with Safilo for 22 years, shared that she loves working with so many different brands. She explained, “I wanted the stability of a huge global company and the ability to work with many brands over the years. It never gets boring.”
We asked Friel about future trends of the company and she mainly focused on the impact of the pandemic and how designs will respond to this. COVID-19. She wondered, “Does it mean that we will be wearing smaller sunglasses so that there is less steaming up from mask wearing?” Friel also brought up sustainability and how brands are conceiving innovative ways to answer consumer questions regarding how products are made and where materials are sourced.
Safilo currently holds the eyewear license for over 25 brands in addition to 10 proprietary brands such as Smith, Carrera and Polaroid. They recently launched Eyewear by David Beckham globally which has been a big success and are currently working on the North American collection roll-outs of Levi’s, Missoni, M Missoni and Under Armour.
Michael gave us some great advice on how to successfully bring good products into a competitive industry. She explained effective brand management is key in guiding the team as well as the importance of working closely with a design house. Safilo's design team works to create appealing optical and sunwear styles that align with each brand’s design codes and seasonal aesthetic.
To end our conversation, Eden, Lauren, Victoria, and Hayley shared their wisdom. The professionals agreed, “You never know where you're going to land. Try new things because those new endeavors may end up being your greatest passion.” They also stressed the importance of interviews and said, "You need passion, energy, and drive and know what you are doing when you enter each interview.” They concluded with this advice, “Use every single experience to your advantage, and know that perseverance, networking and open mindedness are key in the fashion industry."