Google, Luxottica in deal to manuacture Google Glass eyewear

Italy's Luxottica, the world's biggest and dominant eyewear company, yesterday said that it had entered into a strategic partnership with Google Inc to make internet-connected Google Glass eyewear.

Luxottica said it would design, develop and distribute a new kind of eyewear for Google's internet-connected Glass eyewear, without disclosing the financial terms of the deal.

''Through this relationship, Luxottica and Google, who are setting the pace in their respective industries, will match up high-tech developers with fashion designers and eyewear professionals. In particular, the two corporations will establish a team of experts devoted to working on the design, development, tooling and engineering of Glass products that straddle the line between high-fashion, lifestyle and innovative technology,'' the Milan–based company said in a statement.

Google launched Project Glass in April 2012 on a Google+ page in an effort to bring a small stamp-sized screen attached to a pair of eyeglass frames.

Google Glass displays information in a hands-free format, and through a user's cell phone and voice commands can record video, access email, click pictures, and retrieve information from the Web.

Luxottica said that its two major brands, Ray-Ban and Oakley, which have a mastered wearable technology from MP3 to HUD devices, will be a part of the collaboration with Google Glass.

"Luxottica has built an impressive history over the last 50 years designing, manufacturing and distributing some of the most successful and well-known brands in eyewear today," said Google vice president and head of Google X Astro Teller. "We are thrilled to be partnering with them as we look to push Glass and the broader industry forward into the emerging smart eyewear market.''

''We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Google, and are proud to be once again setting the pace in the eyewear industry, as we have been, with more than 50 years of excellence,'' said Andrea Guerra, CEO of Luxottica.

The deal will not only allow Google to mount its device on Luxottica glasses, but get its innovative Glass to consumers through Luxottica's extensive distribution chain.

A low-key company, Luxottica holds total dominance over the global eyewear market by buying out its rivals.

It makes prescription frames and sunglasses for nearly every designer brand, from Chanel to Prada and, to Ralph Lauren and Versace.

Started with 14 employees in a small tool shop by Leonardo Del Vecchio in Agordo, Italy, in 1961 as a contract manufacturer of eyewear components, Luxottica now has a market cap of $25.7 billion and annual turnover of $10.1 billion.

It controls over 80 per cent of the world's major eyewear brands market, and sold 65 million pairs of frames last year.

With over 65,000 employees, Luxottica has 7,042 stores across 130 countries, including India.

The company's products are designed and manufactured at its six plants in Italy, two wholly-owned plants in the China, one each in Brazil, India, and the US.

It acquired Ray-Ban in 1999 and managed to turn the $29 a pair gas station brand into the world's top-selling sunglasses.

Its other brands include Oakley, Persol, Oliver Peoples, Arnette, REVO, Vogue and K&L (formerly Killer Loop).

The New York and Milan Stock Exchanges-listed company also makes 20 licensed brands for some of the best known names in the global fashion and luxury industries, including Burberry, Polo Ralph Lauren, Stella McCartney, Tiffany, Versace, Vogue, Miu Miu, Tory Burch and Donna Karan.

Apart from making glasses, Luxottica also owns nearly every major retail outlet that sells eyewear, including prescription eyewear chains LensCrafters and Pearl Vision. It also owns Target Optical, Sears Optical, Sunglass Hut - the world's largest sunglass chain and EyeMed, the second-largest vision care insurer in the US.

Due to lack of competition, Luxottica routinely sells eyecare glasses at over $200, which are said to cost less than $30 to make.