From 4 to 6 February 2023, MIDO is back at Fieramilano Rho. This year will offer an edition that is more than ever focused on internationalism and sustainability, during which all industry stakeholders can firstly strike up business agreements and do some networking, but also have exclusive previews from the entire industry. The role of the Milan event, however, stretches beyond the purely commercial aspect because MIDO represents for everyone an unmissable opportunity for discussion, reflection, education, exchange and sharing of ideas, designed and aimed at opticians from all over the world.
While waiting to meet up in person at the event, we met some of the event’s protagonists. Today we give the floor to Rosario Toscano, Co-founder and CEO of Akoni Group.
Akoni Group is a new company, how did it come about?
Akoni Group is a Swiss company of cutting-edge luxury items, with the primary goal of creating extraordinary and timeless products of the highest quality, adopting materials and methods that respect people and the environment. Creative director Salma Rachid and I founded this company in 2019 to implement our values, interests and shared passions; from social and environmental responsibility to traditional craftsmanship and the eyewear industry as a distinct form of art. These values underpin our principal mission of restoring meaning to an industry and product category that has been treated for years as an entry-price field, especially by the fashion companies. Our products, from Balmain to Valentino to our own Akoni eyewear collection, are destined to people who understand and appreciate the concept that we call “honest luxury”, with a genuine correlation between quality and price. We are mindful of social and environmental issues, not as a marketing ploy but for the good of our planet. We are incredibly proud of what our team has achieved, and we strongly believe that once a customer has tried Akoni Group products, they will become loyal customers for life.
Why did you choose the name Akoni?
Choosing the name of a company which is your whole life is crucial, because it can personify the direction of the entire team as well as representing the image of the company. We chose the name Akoni, which means priceless and deserving of admiration, to symbolise the standard that we constantly pursue in our products, brand and ourselves.
What is the position of the Akoni Group in the eyewear market?
Progress requires change – this is why Akoni Group has established itself as an explosive force in the world of eyewear. It is no secret that most eyewear around the world is low quality, mass-produced in China to make as much profit as possible. The Akoni Group is different, because our mission is to produce the highest quality eyewear in the world. To this end, we have created an international business model that allows us to select the crème de la crème worldwide. This explains why (1) the Akoni Group has its main headquarters in Switzerland, a country esteemed for its uncontaminated beauty, technical precision and logistics efficiency; (2) our unequalled team of designers come from stylish Europe and cool southern California; and (3) all our glasses are produced in Japan by expert artisans who use the highest quality materials and a combination of ancient and cutting-edge production techniques and technologies to guarantee unrivalled aesthetics and long-lasting quality. As CEO, it is obviously important for me that our work generates a respectable return on investment, but rest assured that money is not the be-all and end-all for us.
How did the license agreements with Balmain and Valentino come about?
Fashion houses have used eyewear as a stepping stone to introduce their brands to new customers with affordable prices. Unfortunately, some glasses (unlike other key products) have traditionally been licensed to third parties.
Both the fashion houses in question, who were already acquainted with our talented and experienced team, knew that the Akoni Group held the unique ability to translate and instil the DNA of their iconic brand into true top-class collections, to rival the best collections from the leading eyewear brands. Working with the Creative Director of Balmain, Olivier Rousteing, and with the Creative Director of Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli, is an absolute joy, and we hope to establish long-term and successful working partnerships with both the iconic companies.
2023 will see the Akoni Group attend its first MIDO event. Why have you decided to take part?
On paper, 2020 seemed to be the perfect year (20/20 vision!) to launch our first eyewear collection. But, as everyone knows, Covid-19 put a spoke in the wheels and trade fairs were among the first victims of the pandemic. Luckily, we had come up with a launch plan using various channels so, despite the unforeseeable challenges, we managed to introduce ourselves to the market with a lot of hype and success. However, fairs like MIDO, SILMO and IOFT create a very special type of energy and camaraderie that is undeniable and impossible to equal. Personally, I was born and raised in Sicily and I gained my early experience in the eyewear industry while living for many years in Milan; so, for me, MIDO is the king of fairs in the industry, and will always hold a special place in my plan.
What will you present at MIDO?The silver lining in the delay to our first appearance at MIDO is that the Akoni Group has recorded a significant growth in the meanwhile. This means that we are bringing more brands and collections than would otherwise be possible to our first show. We are delighted to present the icons of the SS 2023 collections from Akoni, Balmain and Valentino, with the pair featuring as protagonists of the incredible October shows by the two fashion houses and receiving the approval of legendary Creative Directors Olivier Rousteing (Balmain) and Pierpaolo Piccioli (Valentino) in a spectacular and evocative setting.