An exclusive interview with Akoni eyewear CEO Rosario Toscano – Emirates Woman


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October – ‘The Renegade Issue’ – Download now

Co-founder and CEO of Akoni, Rosario Toscano discusses the creation of iconic pieces through incredible attention to detail.

What does the first 30 minutes of your day, your morning routine look like?

My mind stays active even when I’m asleep, so when I wake up the first thing I do is exercise, in order to integrate my mind and body. Starting a new day with clarity and positivity is an important part of my daily practice. I’m a big fan of breakfast being the most important meal of the day, so my post-exercise routine includes a protein shake with bananas and blueberries, which are high in potassium, vitamins B and C, and antioxidants. Of course, I’m Sicilian, so no morning ritual is complete without an espresso from my traditional Bialetti Moka pot.

What was the catalyst for launching your own brand and how did you align with your co-founder, Salma Rachid?

Akoni Group is a progressive Swiss luxury company whose main objective is to create beautiful, timeless and high quality products using materials and methodologies that respect humanity and our natural environment. The company was founded in 2019 by me and our Creative Director, Salma Rachid, to advance our common values, interests and passions, from social and environmental responsibility to the preservation of traditional craftsmanship and the heritage of eyewear. as a separate art form. Besides being friends for over fifteen years and sharing a similar worldview, Salma and I complement each other in a way that makes us a perfect team. I am a business creator who has spent most of my working life in the eyewear industry, while Salma’s creative and business spirit comes from a family that has been pioneering in the fashion industries. and personal care for generations. Salma adds rich layers of value across the board and there simply couldn’t be an Akoni band without her.

Akoni designs, manufactures and distributes luxury eyewear worldwide with a commitment to craftsmanship, expertise and quality. Are these values ​​that were clear from the start like the brand’s vision?

Salma and I chose the name Akoni, which means priceless, priceless, worthy of admiration because it represents the standard we set for our product, our brand and ourselves. From the start, we were convinced that incomparable quality, constant respect for people and the environment would constitute the fundamental values ​​of our company. That is, we are just as concerned with the why and how of what we do as we are with what we do. The key factors that differentiate luxury products like ours from other offerings include premium materials, engineering, craftsmanship, level of fit and finish, and unmatched quality control. We manufacture exclusively in Japan, which is the eyewear equivalent of the Swiss wristwatch manufacturing, recognized worldwide as the best in its class. The resulting quality differences are tangible and profound. To borrow a phrase from Latin, “Res ipsa loquitur”, the thing speaks for itself.

What was the first piece you created and how difficult was it to put together a precision team?

I have worked in the business as opposed to designing the luxury eyewear industry for many years. Having said that, I am passionate about design and greatly appreciate the creative process and the camaraderie in working with our design team. The first Akoni group design that I actively participated in – and my favorite to date, partly for sentimental reasons – is Wonder Boy, which is part of our Balmain Eyewear collection. Named in honor of Balmain’s brilliant creative director, Olivier Rousteing – Wonder Boy is his nickname and also the title of the film documenting his fascinating life – Olivier was instrumental in the creation of this innovative eyepiece that he originally envisioned like a mask to protect celebrities from the public eye, and it’s one of the most beautiful and technically sophisticated sunglasses I’ve ever seen.

Attention to detail is at the heart of Akoni, can you develop the level of craftsmanship and values ​​of the brand?

Akoni Group views the act of creation as a multifaceted organic process. Philosophically, our design code is rooted in traditional Japanese aesthetic principles with an emphasis on simplicity, proportions and scale. Regarding production, we use the most suitable techniques and technologies to achieve the optimal result. Sometimes traditional methods are the best, other times modern technology works better. But more often than not, the harmonization of the traditional and the modern produces a finished product with the highest degree of beauty, purpose and soul. Making glasses like we do is difficult, expensive and time consuming, but we are passionate about our products and we can’t imagine doing it any other way. Lucky for us, our customers find real value in what we do and also understand why we do it.

Rosario

Tell us about the latest FW21 collection and which key pieces are unique?

In the wake of our highly successful Akoni X Balmain launch, we are delighted to present our FW21 collections to you. I’m especially excited about the introduction of Akoni’s Pathfinder Sunglasses, a curved navigator shape featuring mini side screens and an adjustable temple system that ensures a perfect fit and unequivocally demonstrates the continued commitment of the Akoni group in favor of technical innovation. On the Balmain Eyewear side, Fixie is a radically beautiful pair of rimless sunglasses reminiscent of the film Blade Runner which is a tribute to Olivier Rousteing in honor of his tenth anniversary as Balmain’s creative director and which will be featured in the Balmain parade in Paris.

What is the key to success in the luxury market?

The simple answer is quality and exclusivity. Akoni Group products are aimed at people who understand and appreciate a concept we call honest luxury, that is, a true correlation between quality and price. I’m not saying that all expensive products are necessarily of good quality – in fact, in the fashion eyewear category, there is little to no relationship between quality and price. Akoni Group products are different: our designs, materials, craftsmanship and customer service are first class. Our glasses are designed to provide years of use and enjoyment while making you look and feel great. We are socially and environmentally conscious, not because it’s good for marketing, but because it’s good for our planet. We are incredibly proud of what our team has accomplished and have a firm belief that once a customer experiences our products, they will stay that way for life.

How do you go about scaling the brand while maintaining quality?

It is a question of values. You have to ask yourself: do I want to be the biggest or the best? Our distribution model is highly selective and reflects the standard of excellence we hold in all aspects of our business. That is, we are interested in the quality of the doors, not the total number. Our goal is to work only with clients who share our values ​​of social responsibility as well as our passion for unmatched “Made in Japan” design, craftsmanship and quality. Fortunately, we are not alone in this vision: Akoni Group products are available in high-end doors in more than fifty countries around the world.

Could you explain where Akoni’s motto – “Welcome to evolution” comes from?

Glasses have been around for almost a thousand years and despite frequent claims from one or another company that their products are revolutionary, they ultimately all have the same basic shape and components. Sure, some are adding cameras, speakers and other highlights, but to this day these products are little more than new. Akoni’s goal is not to reinvent eyewear, but rather to help eyewear evolve in ways that people find desirable and satisfying in their daily lives. Whether it’s designs, materials, finishes or functionality, we will continue to push the boundaries to deliver the best to our customers.

Do you see different buying models globally and if so, which ones?

COVID-19 has presented the world with enormous challenges, both personal and professional, and our hearts go out to all who have suffered loss as a result of this terrible pandemic. Having said that, I am an eternal optimist and believe that the flip side of the challenge is opportunity. With so many of us working and socializing through video chat these days, our glasses are the first thing others notice about us. Now that eyewear is the primary fashion accessory communicating our personality and sense of style, consumers have a renewed interest in unique, high-quality products that will set them apart while making them look and feel their best. Likewise, consumers of all age groups are increasingly comfortable with shopping online for everything from groceries to eyeglasses. When it comes to our wholesale business, this bulky dinosaur known as the “trade fair” is in decline, replaced by remote showrooms, 3D renderings and digital presentations and video meetings. In addition to being more efficient and cost effective, the net reduction in face-to-face mass gatherings, air travel, and general consumption is better for our collective health and the environment.

It’s ‘The Renegade Issue’ – who in the industry do you think is a renegade or when did you approach life that way?

My choice for an industry renegade is Balmain Creative Director Olivier Rousteing. Olivier is a true visionary whose creativity, business acumen and courage transcend fashion. Fashion brands have long used eyewear as a catwalk category to present their brands to consumers at an affordable price. But eyewear, unlike other key product categories like handbags, are typically licensed to third parties, so the bottom line is poorly designed, low-quality, and environmentally unfriendly products. whose entire value proposition is a recognizable logo on the side. This production dynamic is extremely damaging to the integrity of the brand in the long run, as consumers are misled into believing that the quality of their favorite brand’s eyewear will match their home-made product and when not. not, disappointed consumers set off in search of a new favorite brand. Olivier was savvy enough to recognize that the house’s eyewear was not comparable in quality to the offerings in its other product categories and that it was time for a change. We couldn’t be more proud of the Balmain Eyewear collection and believe it to be the highest quality fashion eyewear brand ever to hit the market.

October – ‘The Renegade Issue’ – Download now

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