21 Jun: Empire of the Sunglasses

Why are spectacles so expensive? The sheer scale of EssilorLuxottica, the world’s biggest maker of eyewear and lenses, might have something to do with it. On 21st September, 2007, they paid $2.1 billion for the last major designer brand they didn’t already own: Oakley.

Their empire now includes Dolce and Gabbana, Versace, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany, Persol, Ray-Ban and DKNY. But they don’t just make frames: they also own many opticians, including LensCrafters; a situation critics suggest has resulted in them effectively operating a price-fixing monopoly. 

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the feud between Luxottica’s billionaire founder Leonardo Del Vecchio and Oakley’s James Jannard; ask if luxury eyewear can be considered an ‘essential’ product; and explain why, the next time you buy a bottle of booze, you might have less choice than you think… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Leonardo Del Vecchio, the Italian billionaire defying old age’ (Financial Times, 2019): https://www.ft.com/content/1fcf395e-eb39-11e9-85f4-d00e5018f061

• ‘Meet the Four-Eyed, Eight-Tentacled Monopoly That is Making Your Glasses So Expensive’ (Forbes, 2014):


• ‘60 Minutes: Do you know who makes your glasses?’ (CBS, 2012):