Launched in 2017, Thélios was created in the same year by a joint venture between LVMH and Marcolin, two groups that from the very start shared the same vision of the future of eyewear.
We talked about this vision, the Manifattura in Longarone (now the only manufacturing site) and much more with Sara Osculati, Chief Brand and Product Officer at Thélios.
What is your vision?
Three years have passed since the creation of Thélios and our vision has not changed: put eyewear at the centre of LVMH maisons’ strategy.
We have always believed that this product could be powerful - it can give the brand greater visibility and develop business - but also dangerous.
If it is not in line with the brand’s DNA and its characteristics, it could create confusion and produce an incorrect perception of brand values.
What is your strategy for ensuring that the demands of the haute couture world coexist with those of fashion?
Our basic idea is not the creation of a separate accessory but the involvement of the creative director of each fashion house in order to fully integrate his or her vision in the collection.
This is possible only if the times for developing eyewear are changed, bringing them into line with other product categories: the entire industrial system must keep up with this new pace that was completely new to our sector until now.
What is the “secret” for achieving this harmonisation?
The sector dedicated to prototypes, one of the cornerstones of manufacturing, works constantly with the product manufacturing part. Constant interfacing between the two departments is the secret to shortening times.
Let’s go back to the Manifattura in Longarone: can you describe the evolution and characteristics of your manufacturing site?
The Manifattura was set up in Longarone in 2017. It is a complete manufacturing organisation that handles all aspects of eyewear: from the initial creative brief to the end product. The partnership with Marcolin is a guarantee of know-how that spans many years and of the overall control of manufacturing.
We began with the production of Céline eyewear and recently, in July to be precise, it was extended to include Dior eyewear, which will be launched in January 2021. The Manifattura now covers 18,000 square metres and has a production capacity of 4.5 million items.
20% of our external resources are within the territory so that we have contact with local suppliers. Current agreements cover the manufacture of injected frames while acetate and metal frames are produced internally.
In autumn we will inaugurate the second part of the Manifattura.
You mentioned your strategy of maintaining links with the territory What is your philosophy regarding human resources?
We made a very significant investment in human resources: at the moment our company employs globally 350 persons. The idea was to create an organisation that would combine senior and junior profiles. The average age of the employees is 27 years.
Can you give us a specific example of interaction with fashion houses?
Yes, I can give you two: Stella McCartney and Rimowa.
Stella McCartney joined the group this year and our shared commitment is to create the sustainable, ethical luxury that has always characterised the brand. In fact, the frames in the collection have achieved certification by Underwriter Laboratories (UL), an organisation that specialises in assessing products from the point of view of their environmental sustainability.
The collection is characterised by sustainable innovations, such as bio-based lens material, 39% of which is composed of castor oil which allows a 40% reduction in carbon emissions from the raw materials, and bio-acetate, 68% of which is derived from wood fibre and cotton.
For the Rimowa brand introduced in 2020, the approach was inspired by travel (Ed: the brand specialises in high-end travel products): we wanted functional eyewear so aimed at lightness, an essential feature for travellers.
How does Thélios handle distribution and on what principles is it based?
We opted for a selective distribution network, the natural extension of our philosophy. The choice of optical centre is based on certain quality criteria that vary depending on the brand of reference.
How did you cope with the COVID-19 emergency?
The Manifattura was closed for only two weeks. I think it is important to convey the lessons the pandemic has taught us: we learned to work in complete safety by following all the rules established by law and, at the same time, we allowed smart working wherever possible.
We also strengthened our relations with customers: we took advantage of this period to provide distance training on the collections and on more technical aspects. We learned to “sell from a distance”.
I can also confidently confirm that Thélios is a growing company.