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Profiles | January 15, 2016

When collaboration is a trend

Collaboration, innovation and daring. These are the values that underpin Italia Independent, according to Andrea Tessitore, who founded the brand alongside Giovanni Acconciagioco and Lapo Elkan

words Carolina Saporiti

“It will be future generations who decide if we were successful. We are committed to creating glasses by following a few rules and keeping an open mind. We came to the right ideas after carrying out careful analysis and conducting research”. This was the response Andrea Tessitore, CEO of Italia Independent, gave when asked about the reasons behind the company’s first nine years of success. Since its launch in January 2007 at Pitti Uomo its mission has never changed: Lapo, Andrea and Giovanni wanted to create unique and distinctive glasses that stand out within the overcrowded eyewear market, “but for us it’s also important that we have the right market positioning, with the right price”. In fact, the company has two ranges. Italia Independent represents the company’s core and Italian expertise: “we conduct research and innovate with this collection, in terms of materials and treatments. Over the years, among other things, we have worked to turn what was seen as being a cheap material, injection moulded plastic, into something distinguished. I•I Eyewear, on the other hand, is “a line for people that want to change their glasses frequently. The frames are made with Korean digital printing technology, cost around 80 Euro and follow the trends of the moment”. However, Italia Independent’s real strength lies in its collaborations. The brand was born from collaboration, and over the years it has never ceased working with others. In Munich, during the opti trade show, Italia Independent’s focus will develop even further with the presentation of its first line made alongside adidas, the result of an international agreement that will last four years. As part of this collaboration, Italia Independent will develop, produce and distribute Originals eyewear. The agreement was signed after the success of the glasses collection inspired by the iconic Superstar sneakers, which was launched in March 2015. The partnership is not merely a simple licensing agreement, however, but instead represents the joining of forces between two brands that share the aim of creating an innovative business model. And this new bond is summed up by the new ‘lock-up logo’, which combines the iconic adidas Originals trefoil logo with that of Italia Independent, highlighting the profound and mutual commitment of both companies. “Collaboration means being open”, Tessitore said confidently, “and, above all, it offers the opportunity for enhancement. Collaboration is a skill and has many advantages, beginning with the chance for the creative teams to exchange ideas and pick up new ones. It is highly in vogue at the moment. The market is increasingly demanding products that are authentic. The era of brands that did a bit of everything, which worked very well in the 1980s, has come to an end. The best way of doing business today is to exchange ideas, so as to always remain open-minded and to give your brand depth, and this will become increasingly true in the future. It would also be great, and an important step, if we could collaborate amongst ourselves in the sector. In fact, I am launching an appeal for the development of partnerships within the sector. We have collaborated with Marchon for Karl Lagerfeld and ic! berlin, as well as J.F. Rey”.

Collaboration is not enough however: for an Italian company, it is research into new technology and the study of materials that really make the difference. “Outside of Italy they may make glasses that look just as beautiful and are cheaper, but the quality is inferior. They can copy our products, but if we focus on research we will always be one step ahead. That is our attitude: dare and innovate”. The velvet-look treatment, UV Lux®, is an excellent example of this. Derived from the automobile sector, it was brought to the eyewear world for the first time in 2009 by Italia Independent. The process for creating the velvet look involves aiming and firing special natural fibres against surfaces coated in an adhesive substance. The energy needed to aim and fire the fibre is supplied by an electrostatic field. This technology was included in MIT Technology Review Italy’s list of the year’s best innovations. Since then, the company’s research into materials has continued unabated, and this year a new collection will be presented once again: “The 2016 velvet does not wear, it is truly resistant, and not just to water. This is possible”, Tessitore explained, “because we have never stopped our research and because we have learnt from our mistakes. We are not afraid to admit when we are wrong”.

Yet collaboration and innovation are still not enough: the third ingredient for the success of Italia Independent is teamwork. Whilst at many companies it is the designers who suggest the shapes and new models, at II this is not seen as sufficient, which is why the designers are always supported by people or groups of people with other corporate functions or from different industrial sectors. “This is the only way we can ensure it never becomes boring”.