Cavaliere del Lavoro Vittorio Tabacchi was president of MIDO during the years of the global economic crisis (from 2007 to 2010). An extremely difficult task that he and his staff performed with intelligence, consolidating the fair’s reputation as a world leader. His words convey the pride of a man for whom eyewear has been an integral part of his life and who continues to do a considerable amount for the segment.
You were president of MIDO from 2007 to 2010, the years of the global economic crisis. What was the international scenario in the segment at that time? How did MIDO handle that period?
The scenario during those years was really difficult and complex. The general feeling was very negative, the world economy was in deep trouble. The eyewear sector was also greatly affected by it and Italy suffered in terms of the domestic market and exports. Despite the hardship, MIDO managed to stay fairly stable and attract Italian and international buyers to Milan. It certainly was not easy - as the figures of the time demonstrate - but it overcame the problems with determination and initiative.
Your brother Giuliano was also president of MIDO. Can we infer from this that it is a family tradition? Is the attachment to this exhibition also at a corporate level (Safilo was at all the fairs from 1970)?
Absolutely. My brother was president like myself and my father Guglielmo has always been one of the founding fathers of MIDO, together with the then vice president Mario Lozza and other enlightened entrepreneurs from Cadore.
In addition to my family, the attachment has also been corporate. MIDO was a fixed date, a binding appointment. We waited for MIDO to present the new collections, not only to Italy but also to the world as a whole. The organisers of the fair have always had an international vision that fostered Italian exports right from the start. New products were on display and at the same time we conveyed the spirit of the exhibitors, a spirit made up of the tradition and culture of making eyewear. Taking part in the fair was a pleasure, not a duty like our work. At MIDO we met friends and did business. In this regard I would like to add one of the statements I made in the presentation book for the Eyewear Museum at Pieve di Cadore: “making eyewear was an activity that was so intrinsic to the social fabric of the area that it can be defined not only as a way of making a living but also as a way of living”.
You just mentioned the Eyewear Museum at Pieve di Cadore. There can be no doubt about the importance of your contribution to the development of the Museum with its collection of unique and invaluable pieces. Can you tell us how you developed this aspect of your mandate?
It’s always been a habit of mine to keep things, to remember them, so as not to forget them. So over the years I have become a “collector”, I think that is the right term. I have been able to meet the best collectors in the world and I am particularly close to a dear friend from Belgium, Georges Bodart, without whom the Museum might never have been created. He called me one day in 1989: in tears, he asked me if I would be able to buy his entire collection. They were extraordinary eyeglasses of really important historical value. He had decided to sell them because his son wanted to make room for contact lenses at the family’s optical centre. I felt straightaway that I had to do something and I put forward to the Veneto Region the idea of opening a museum. I also involved Confindustria Belluno with its small and medium-sized enterprises, the management of Unione Artigiani, the Cassa di Risparmio of Verona, Vicenza and Belluno (now Unicredit), the Province, the unions and some entrepreneurial colleagues of my own age. They all immediately understood the importance of donating to the area a reminder of their fathers and grandfathers, of leaving an eternal indication of the work of previous and future generations, to not only display eyeglasses but also the history, culture, education and respect for this product. Currently, there is a section on the first floor dedicated to the story that began in the 1300s. The entire history of the eyeglasses industry in Cadorna is on the second floor, with a complete list of the companies of the area. Today many of them are no longer there. When I think about that I believe I have done an excellent job: if the Museum did not exist, in a few years time no one would remember them.
You were president during the 40th anniversary of MIDO. What do you remember about that edition?
What do you hope for the important 50th anniversary on the horizon? Will you be at the celebrations?
It was an exceptional edition. I recall a wonderful cake which we cut with the managing director Astrid Galimberti, and a photographic exhibition, “MIDO: the first 40 years”, which told the story of the fair through images from the archives. It was an important milestone but the next one will be even more so.
Naturally I will be present at MIDO’s 50th anniversary and I hope that all the extraordinary events programmed for the celebrations will have the huge success that they deserve. In addition, I hope that the presence of the “eyewear world” will be total and absolute: there is no end to the international and intercontinental vision that this fair can achieve.
Another special aspect of your mandate has been the attention to prevention and eyesight health. In particular, you have been very active within CDV - Commission Difesa Vista - of which you are currently president. Can you describe your course of action?
Protecting vision has always been a subject close to Anfao, the Italian Association of Optical Goods Manufacturers. It did a lot but wanted to give more visibility to such an important operational activity. Something specific was required and so I decided to set up a commission that would defend eyesight and carry out social actions in our country. I united all the Italian institutions involved in caring for the human eye and dedicated to vision screening and measuring. The Commissione Difesa Vista that unites opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists was thus created. Unfortunately, there are no orthoptists who, I regret to say, have not wanted to take part in it. I promoted actions also at the European level, involving the foreign institutions that handle these same subjects. The next step was to make it a non-profit organisation.
I am very pleased about what has been achieved, especially in recent years. Today CDV is a presence that is recognised and admired by the market thanks to the initiatives for all ages, to promotional actions, communication and education. We are a genuine public service dedicated to social actions and the attention we pay to the activities, especially with regard to children, is, for me, a source of great pride.