Business and Leadership Lessons from Ray-Ban’s Late Owner Leonardo Del Vecchio
The fashion industry is known to be fast-paced and competitive, and that’s especially true for the eyewear segment.
It’s why it’s an impressive feat for the eyewear brand Ray-Ban to remain one of the industry’s key players decades into the business, reporting a revenue of $3.36 billion (£2.6 billion) in 2022 while also contributing to the projected 5.2% growth of the polarised sunglasses market. The same can be said for Ray-Ban’s maker EssilorLuxottica, as the eyewear and eyecare giant increased its sales in Europe by 6.2% in the same year.
Responsible for this success is none other than Leonardo Del Vecchio, the late billionaire owner of Ray-Ban and the chairman of EssilorLuxottica. Although the Italian businessman passed away in 2022 at age 87, his decades-long work in the eyewear industry left us with a legacy and the following lessons worth learning in business and leadership.
Don’t be afraid to start small
It is worth noting that Del Vecchio came from humble beginnings, working as an apprentice in Milan at age 14 before moving to Agordo in the 1960s. As Agordo was widely known for its skilled labour and craftsmanship, it was in this town that Del Vecchio founded Luxottica in 1961.
Starting with just a dozen workers on free land offered to young entrepreneurs, Luxottica eventually transitioned from manufacturing an entire range of eyeglass components in the late 1960s to producing its eyewear designs by 1971. Del Vecchio’s hard work truly paid off as he began tapping the U.S. market from the 1980s to the 1990s, successfully acquiring Ray-Ban for $640 million (£525 million) in 1999.
Transform your business into a brand
What was particularly remarkable about Del Vecchio’s acquisition of Ray-Ban through Luxottica was not only his recognition of its untapped potential but, even more importantly, his ability to transform Ray-Ban into a brand that has become almost synonymous with sunglasses.
Del Vecchio invested in Ray-Ban’s new collections while also capitalising on its authentic designs like the Aviator, Clubmaster, and Wayfarer to introduce the brand as a hallmark of stylistic expression. Pulling this off requires knowledge and understanding of intellectual property rights, as explained in our post ‘What Every CEO Needs to Know About Design Rights’. Del Vecchio ensured that the frame styles and designs will remain the brand’s trademark for decades to come.
Harness technology to expand and innovate
As Luxottica and its group of companies, including Ray-Ban, grew steadily throughout the years, Del Vecchio was unafraid to explore new horizons and allow his multinational corporation to grow further. Beyond geographical expansion in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific markets, Ray-Ban, under Del Vecchio’s leadership, harnessed technology to expand its offerings from the original line of sunglasses and eyeglasses to industry-leading smart glasses.
In partnership with Facebook’s Meta, Ray-Ban currently offers the next generation of smart glasses with built-in features for audio and video recording, live streaming, calls and messaging, and artificial intelligence (AI) assistance. The Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses collection is available in trademark designs like Wayfarer and Headliner.
Leverage opportunities for partnerships
Lastly, Del Vecchio proves that no matter how far your business has come, there will always be room for partnerships that enable it to grow, succeed, and reach its full potential. Since Luxottica completed its merger with French-based ophthalmic optics company Essilor, EssilorLuxottica has dominated the broader eyewear and eyecare market. In the first quarter of this year, the luxury eyewear market reported an 8.6% rise in revenue, amounting to €6.15 billion (£5.32 billion).
There are multiple takeaways embedded in Del Vecchio’s long history of building Luxottica from the ground up and transforming it into one of the industry’s leading eyewear makers and retailers. For more insights on the world’s top-performing companies and CEOs, check out other articles posted here at CEO Today Magazine.