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Safilo Completes Majority Purchase of California DTC Eyewear Brand

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Safilo has made a deep investment in digitally native label, Blenders Eyewear.

Safilo has completed its majority-share purchase of U.S.-based, digitally native brand Blenders Eyewear. The company first announced plans of its acquisition in December.

The label was founded in 2012 by San Diego-based surfer, Chase Fisher, and was inspired by his Southern California lifestyle. Safilo has taken a 70 percent stake in the label, with Fisher holding on to the remaining 30 percent and staying on as the brand’s chief executive officer, based in San Diego. Safilo says the overall cost of its shares in Blenders have cost the firm $63.9 million — financed by a 90 million euro loan extended by Safilo reference shareholder, Multibrands Italy B.V.

Blenders makes approximately 95 percent of its sales through direct channels and Fisher — who started the brand with $2,000 — says it has been profitable since inception. In 2019, the company marked $40.7 million in sales — a 30 percent gain over the previous year. Most of Blenders’ styles sell for under $60 and reflect a colorful, athletic mood.

Safilo has been struggling to maintain market share in the fallout from both Kering and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s establishment of vertical eyewear manufacturing firms — thus canceling blue-chip licenses with the Safilo group. In both 2018 and 2019, the company recorded millions in euro net losses.

In the fallout of LVMH’s establishment of Thélios — an eyewear company formed in joint partnership with Marcolin — Safilo doubled-down on its other licenses like Polaroid and Carrera. It also signed deals and courted the brands not held by larger conglomerates, including Levi’s and Missoni.

Safilo’s investment in Blenders might represent a new chapter in the company’s history, this one focused on digital strategy and youth outreach. For Blenders, it represents an opportunity to scale and expand digital operations.

Safilo ceo Angelo Trocchia said of the acquisition in a statement: “The closing of the Blenders acquisition represents a big leap forward for us on the 360-degree digital transformation strategy we presented in December last year and which we are now accelerating in all its three key components, from the launch of the latest technologies in the B2B and CRM fields to the strengthening of digital and social marketing capabilities, to the direct-to-consumer distribution.

He continued: “Blenders Eyewear is a compelling price-to-value eyewear proposition, a digitally native business model and a strong e-commerce pure player that goes to enrich our proprietary brands portfolio in a crucial moment for our group’s business development and for our industry’s evolution. We are working in difficult times, turning around our business in a challenging and fast-evolving marketplace and I am firmly convinced that a focused execution of our strategies will put our company in a stronger position, better equipped to meet our challenges head-on and to be frontrunners in some of the new business opportunities that lie ahead.”

Fisher said of the sale: “We are super excited to have finalized our union with Safilo, ready to progress faster than ever on our growth and development projects. The global pandemic’s lockdowns that we have been all suffering have undoubtedly elevated the importance of e-commerce and digital channels, also pushing new consumers to shop online for the very first time. We, at Blenders Eyewear, have seen and are experiencing this digital escalation. Our results were very solid in the first quarter of the year, with sales up more than 30 percent, and further accelerating in April and May.”

He continued: “Together with Safilo, we aim to continue scaling up our digital capabilities, constantly improving the customer journey and experience, alongside pioneering new ways of engaging with ever more demanding consumers, building profitable traffic and conversion.”