Tributes paid to “visionary” Luxottica founder, Leonardo Del Vecchio

The chairman of EssilorLuxottica has died at the age of 87


The eyewear industry has paid tribute to “visionary” Leonardo Del Vecchio, the founder of Luxottica, who has died at the age of 87.

Announcing the death of its chairman, EssilorLuxottica shared: “The company expresses its deepest condolences to the family and to the global employee community for this enormous loss.”

“He will forever be remembered for his values, robust leadership, passion, and exceptional character, as well as his dedication toward the company and its employees,” the company later added.

Paying tribute on social media, Luxottica posted: “Today, the world has lost a visionary: an entrepreneurial genius, a good friend to many, and an all-round incredible man.”

Tributes have highlighted the eyewear veteran’s journey from growing up in an orphanage, to becoming one of the richest men in Italy.

Born in 1935 in Milan, Del Vecchio began an apprenticeship at the age of 14 in a medal engraving company, Johnson, whilst attending the Academy of Fine Arts in Brera in the evenings.

At the age of 26, Del Vecchio moved to Agordo, where the local authority was offering land to factories relocating to the area. It was there, in 1961, he established a company producing components for the optical industry.

In 1971, the company produced its first collection of Luxottica-branded eyewear, and presented a small range of frames at the optical exhibition, Mido.

Seeing value in not relying solely on distributors, the company acquired Scarrone, a wholesale distributor in the Italian eyewear market, in 1974, and in 1981 it established a subsidiary in Germany. From 1980, the company continued to acquire distributors and open new subsidiaries.

As eyewear took on more of a central role in fashion, Del Vecchio signed a license agreement with Giorgio Armani, launching a license portfolio for the eyewear company.

In a tribute from Giorgio Armani responding to the news, the Armani company shared: “Leonardo, how many discussions, how many conversations, so much honesty to make our dreams come true. So much loyalty. I’ve lost a friend, first, and a companion in this long professional adventure. Your passing afflicts me deeply. I hold your family close to my heart.”

Luxottica went on to acquire companies including Vogue Eyewear, LensCrafters, Persol, Ray-Ban and Sunglass Hut, amongst others.

In 2018, Luxottica and Essilor International successfully combined, with Del Vecchio stepping back from his executive role in the company in 2020.

Companies and organisations across the eyewear industry paid tribute to the entrepreneur.

Giovanni Vitaloni, president of ANFAO (the Italian Association of Optical Goods Manufacturers) and Mido, stated: “The world of eyewear loses the man who was the first to understand the potential of an object that, from a medical tool, has been transformed into an indispensable fashion accessory: a Copernican revolution in the sector.”

Del Vecchio was the first in Italy to recognise a “great commercial outlet in the American market,” Vitaloni said, seizing opportunities for expansion through the company and then through acquisitions that have “built the policy that has led the company to expand its field of action from production to distribution on a global scale.”

Vitaloni recognised the former chairman’s work in corporate welfare, as well as his resourcefulness to anticipate changes and adapt to new technologies.

“Our country has lost a guide, an entrepreneur and an extraordinary man: like all pioneers, his model will remain unmatched in terms of consistency, solidity and depth,” he said.

President and CEO of ophthalmic lens manufacturer Younger Optics, David Rips, stated on social media: “By sheer force of will, this amazing man built and assembled the world’s largest optical company,” adding that, by merging eyewear with fashion, “he transformed the eyeglass industry. His lasting impact is impossible to overstate.”

CEO of Thelios, part of the luxury goods company, LVMH Group, Alessandro Zanardo, also shared a tribute on LinkedIn to, “a true visionary who has shaped our industry and made Italy the world leader in eyewear.”

Expressing condolences to family, friends and colleagues, the Charmant Group described Del Vecchio as “a giant of our industry.”

Angelo Trocchia, group CEO of Safilo, called Del Vecchio an “extraordinary entrepreneur who succeeded in creating from scratch a company that became a symbol of Italian industry throughout the world and who worked with determination to innovate the eyewear market.”

Trocchia continued: “Today we have lost not only a great entrepreneur, but also a great man.”