Ah, the world of eyewear, a domain where style meets utility and where the tag “Made In Italy” used to reign supreme. It’s me, a lover of all things luxurious and a bit of a fashion aficionado, if I do say so myself. Today, I’m diving into a topic close to my heart and my eyes – the transformation of eyewear production, particularly focusing on the Luxottica empire, from the Italian craftsmanship to the “Made in China” label.

Welcome to the world of eyewear Mafia.

The global eyeglasses industry was worth $105.56 billion in 2020, of which Luxottica controlled 80 percent. The company estimates that over half a billion people worldwide are currently wearing their glasses.

Made In Italy Was A Stamp Of Luxury

You see, there was a time when picking up a pair of sunglasses was not just about shielding your eyes from the sun; it was about embracing a piece of Italian heritage. I fondly remember my first encounter with a pair of Gucci sunglasses. Ah, those were the days when “Made In Italy” was a stamp of luxury, craftsmanship, and, let’s be honest, a bit of social status. But as I’ve come to learn, the tides have shifted, and so has the manufacturing of these opulent accessories.

Let’s talk about Luxottica, shall we?

The name itself conjures images of sleek designs and the kind of opulence that makes your heart skip a beat. Once, this giant was a beacon of Italian craftsmanship, a testament to what Made In Italy stood for. But as I sipped my espresso in a quaint café in Milan, a friend leaned in and whispered a truth that nearly made me spill my coffee – Luxottica’s latest collections, even those gorgeous 2024 Prada frames, are now proudly “Made in China.”

Luxottica has Prada license, Kering Eyewear has Gucci licence for eyeglasses and sunglasses.

Prada's Minimal Baroque Sunglasses Samuel L Jackson 2014 One For the boys charity


I’ll admit, I was taken aback. Not because I harbor any snobbery towards China’s manufacturing capabilities (they’ve proven themselves formidable in the fashion industry), but because it felt like a piece of Italy’s heritage was being sold off, piece by piece. Remember Fiat? Another Italian jewel now under French ownership. It seems Italy’s treasures are finding new homes, and it’s a bitter pill to swallow. I am wearing Gucci, 100% Made In China!

Fiat 500 Classic car Gracie Opulanza Tuscany italy beige Fiat 124 Spider Tuscany made in italy Gracie Opulanza (2)


But let’s not dwell on the melancholy. After all, my love for fashion and eyewear isn’t dictated by geography. It’s the design, the story, and the swagger that a pair of sunglasses can bring to your ensemble that truly matters. I still cherish my trip to Milan, where I discovered an old school collector near the Duomo with an array of glasses that told stories of Italy’s past and present. He had frames that whispered secrets of designers from eras gone by, like the red baroque temple Prada frames I own, birthed from the imagination of a German girl who designed for Prada between 2009 and 2012. Ah, the narratives woven into those frames!

And let’s not forget Patty, the Oliver Peoples girl, who painted the world through her lenses before selling her vision to LVMH for a cool 80 million. These tales of creativity and transition from Italy to global stages are what fashion stories are made of.


Made in Italy to Made in China

Of course, the journey from “Made in Italy” to “Made in China” isn’t just about geography. It’s about the evolution of an industry that’s constantly seeking efficiency, innovation, and accessibility. The shift has ruffled some feathers, especially in Lombardy, where the line between craft smanship and mass production blurs. Suspicion and skepticism cloud the air as the definition of authenticity is challenged. Yet, amidst the uproar, there lies an undeniable truth – the essence of design and creativity knows no borders.

The Luxottica saga, with its roots stretching from the Sedico factory to the sprawling manufacturing hubs in Dongguan, China, is a testament to this global dance of design and production.

It’s a narrative that challenges purists but also opens up a dialogue about what luxury means in the 21st century.

Is it the stamp of origin, or the craftsmanship and design that defines luxury?

red Prada Baroque Limited Edition made In Italy Prada Baroque Limited Edition made In Italy

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Delving into the intricate world of eyewear, with decades of expertise under my belt, I’ve witnessed firsthand the evolution of manufacturing and branding practices that might surprise the casual observer. The tale of the “Made In Italy” mark, particularly in the context of Luxottica’s operations, is a narrative wrapped in complexity, blending tradition with modern globalization.

Luxottica, a titan in the eyewear industry, isn’t just in the business of selling glasses; they’re in the business of storytelling, crafting narratives that span continents and cultures. Their approach to creating iconic frames like the Ray-Ban Wayfarer and the Ray-Ban Aviator reveals much about the contemporary landscape of global manufacturing and branding. Particularly intriguing is the journey of these frames, purportedly manufactured in Luxottica’s owned Tri Star factory in Dongguan, China, before they make their way across the globe.

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Seán Michael Mcwilliams, eyewear seller and buyer shares his first hand experiences.

A common query that arises in this narrative is whether the entirety of the stock of these models, primarily intended for the Asian market, is first shipped to Northern Italy. The purpose? To receive the coveted “Made in Italy” stamp on their temples before being sent back to Asia for distribution.

This practice, if true, raises eyebrows, not least because it hints at a rather circuitous route designed to imbue these frames with an Italian essence, albeit one acquired through logistics rather than craftsmanship.

This process, while seemingly elaborate, might actually streamline Luxottica’s global distribution strategy, aligning with the stringent customs requirements regarding country of origin stamping laws. The critical point of contention here is whether this method of branding aligns with the spirit of these laws or merely adheres to their letter.

Speculation abounds that for frames distributed within Asia, the journey to Italy might be skipped altogether, with the “Made in Italy” stamp being applied directly at the Tri Star factory in Dongguan. This approach would ostensibly save significant costs associated with shipping frames to Italy and back, but it raises questions about the authenticity of the branding and the legal and ethical implications of such a practice.

The notion that a part of the frame, such as a plastic temple end or a single temple, might be sent from China to Italy solely for the purpose of being stamped and then returned to Asia for final assembly is particularly thought-provoking. If this part, now transformed by the “Made in Italy” mark, is considered to have undergone a significant value-adding process, it skirts the edge of legal and ethical considerations regarding the country of origin.

This strategy, while potentially satisfying the letter of customs requirements, ventures into a gray area concerning the value attributed to the “Made in Italy” designation.

This exploration into Luxottica’s branding and manufacturing strategies unveils a broader discussion on the nature of value, authenticity, and the globalized pathways products travel in the modern economy. The eyewear industry, with its deep roots in craftsmanship and design, finds itself at a crossroads, navigating the nuances of tradition and the demands of a global market. As an expert in this field, I’ve seen how these practices unfold and the conversations they spark among consumers, regulators, and industry insiders.

In the end, the essence of brands like Ray-Ban rests not just in their geographic origins but in the stories they tell and the visions they bring to life. Luxottica’s approach, while controversial to some, underscores a complex dance between heritage and innovation, between the places we associate with craftsmanship and the global realities of production and distribution. As we continue to cherish these iconic designs, it’s worth pondering the myriad journeys they embark upon before gracing our eyes, each frame a chapter in a much larger story of style, culture, and commerce.