Consider how many projects you pursue in a lifetime, and now think about how many projects may have been carried out and are still being carried out today in Mazzucchelli’s activity: projects involving the production side, the research and development offices, the administrative and managing functions and the ones connected with the customer service.
Plenty of projects have been carried out during these years that have positively influenced the work of the company and the relationship with its customers.
Among these projects there is one which, though carried out almost 50 years ago, is still one of the company's beating hearts. We are talking about Centro O, Mazzucchelli research and study center.
Centro O was born in the late 70s (1977), the key years for the success of Made in Italy in fashion as we know it today.
The big Italian names were increasingly standing out and it was precisely then that Mazzucchelli understood that the eyewear sector also needed a laboratory of ideas, a stylistic support for its customers. For that time it was certainly a forward-looking approach.
Centro O was therefore born with the aim of becoming a link between the company and its public being at the same time a meeting point for a mutual exchange of experiences. This is an important response that Mazzucchelli wants to give both to the growing professionalism of the operators in the sector, professionalism that requires constant updates and a continuous sharing of ideas and visions, and to an increasingly international market and for this reason more and more attentive to changes, sector orientations and fashions around the world.
Centro O thus becomes the repository of Mazzucchelli's creative heritage, able to offer an up-to-date showcase of production activity, to welcome the anticipations of new market trends and to make available to all customers the contribution of the experience of specialists qualified in style, color, fashion and materials.
It is precisely fashion that has contributed, with its experimental and often irrepressible nature, to accelerate changes also in the eyewear sector by shifting the interest towards the new needs of customers and producers in search of materials, shapes and colors able to interpret market needs.
This openness to experimentation, in fact, turns into the need for eyewear creators to rethink their work by moving away from the ordinary in order to focus on the personalization and characterization of their collections.
The research and study activities of the Centro O promptly respond to this request by making available to operators of the sector not only the technical and stylistic skills of the collaborators, but also in-depth trend studies that set the characteristic orientations of the coming season. Starting from these indications and through the collaboration of the technicians of the Centro O, customers can elaborate their drawings and have the desired color combinations made to measure. In this way each customer has the opportunity to give life to ideas and to create unique and distinctive glasses, as well as, of course, to draw directly from the Mazzucchelli collections.
Mazzucchelli develops about 50 collections every year. A great job aimed at anticipating market trends.
This offer contains colors and patterns developed with all the available technologies, the best on the market, which can respond to many product targets.
Today, like 50 years ago, Centro O is a hotbed of ideas, a place where creativity and competence come together providing customer-oriented services. The Product Development team, led today by Elena Orsi Mazzucchelli, is made up of 7 people and develops, thanks also to the essential know-how of the experts of our laboratories (about 40 people),around 9000 new color codes every year thus satisfying the needs of designers from all over the world. Materials and colors that come from a continuous and punctual research able to interpret the needs and desires of all customers and from a creativity animated by the passion for work that characterizes all the people who work at Centro O.
Can you describe what was the social and cultural context in which Centro O was born?
Centro O was officially founded on January 1st, 1977, towards the end of that decade which saw the profound transformation of Italy's economic boom. The grip of the "years of lead", of that period of political, social and ideological struggle already degenerated into terrorism, is loosening. From this traumatic experience, society, which is coming out with many wounds but completely different, reacts with enthusiasm to past fear and finds a new vitality and a constructive passion; neo-liberal and unconventional trends of thought run through it.
The desire for freedom leads to extravagances and transgressions, but it is also very important to affirm the sense of belonging to an ideological or political group and give free rein to utopian dreams. A period therefore of great confusion characterized by many negative aspects, fortunately in exhaustion, but also with many positive traits that will be clearly expressed in the following years. Inspired by music or by new social achievements, various groups are formed characterized by a codified clothing that becomes an expression of their thought. This is how the hippy movement, punks, working class supporters, feminists, etc. are born.
Many ideas, many ideologies and many types of clothing, which create great confusion, but also many potential market segments. It is in this new, complex and varied scenario that fashion comes in overwhelmingly and launches the new concept of ready-to-wear. Many Italian designers are appreciated abroad and Made in Italy is becoming a synonym of quality products of high aesthetic relevance. The designers are ready to follow the market unrest, to catch the needs, to give products a new aesthetic, with innovative shapes and colors.
For the first time we can see designer brands on clothes and accessories and the success is increasing.
This revolution also involves glasses. Whether they are eyeglasses or sunglasses, they are beginning to be "branded" and to represent a status-symbol.
In this context Centro O was born. Mazzucchelli understands that all this will lead to a great change and that the eyewear world will have to find at Centro O the answers to any requests for color, material, personalization and all the information necessary to anticipate the future demands of consumers.
Could you describe the evolution of the eyewear market over the year during which you have been leading Centro O?
To explain the great change in the eyewear market, it is enough to think of the transformation - one would almost say a genetic mutation - of glasses from ophthalmic prosthesis to "cult" object. After this metamorphosis, eyeglasses have become an accessory of primary importance, an indispensable tool for those who want to express personality and individuality and also leave a reflection of their soul on the naked face.
At the beginning of my activity, the market offer basically responded to a national taste (Italian, French, American, etc.); then, over time, the range became more and more enriched to include products that could meet the needs of groups of customers and even of individuals.
In the 1970s and 1980s, eyeglasses are mainly produced in low-cost areas (especially Cadore, France and Asia) and largely exported to the USA. Big buyers, American distribution chains and mutualistic systems in some countries still guarantee large production runs.
But it is precisely during the ‘80s that market deeply changes because Italian designers and the "Made in Italy" brand burst onto the world fashion and eyewear scene. Eyewear manufacturers meet the fashion system and a driving force starts the long evolutionary path of the market. The offer becomes richer and richer: it interprets, in addition to conventional needs, the new fashion sensibilities of consumers, it becomes an expression of the needs of customers, it reflects new lifestyles derived from socio-cultural changes in society, it addresses new targets. Of course, a very wide range of products leads to a fragmentation of production batches which increases costs and the production of glasses, since the ‘90s, is increasingly relocated to Asia. The period of globalization begins, but just towards the end of this decade, in Europe, especially in Italy and France, a new "creative" vein (called in France "Les Créateurs") formed by a group of companies with a great vocation for aesthetic and technological experimentation and which launch innovative concepts of great importance takes shape. In recent decades, glasses have increasingly become a myth, an accessory which has turned out to be a must-have because it is considered an integral part of a human being. The market continues its evolution in order to better interpret the new needs of the consumer.
Another key which help us to understand the great changes that animate the eyewear market is also the choice made by an ever increasing number of independent opticians to differentiate themselves from their competitors by offering unique, highly selected products and ensuring a personalized service. Throughout all these years and during all these market changes, Centro O has continued to observe and study the evolution of the eyewear and fashion world: it has become an important reference point for the sector and has continued to provide it with consultancy, creativity and innovative solutions.
How has the aesthetics of glasses evolved since the birth of Centro O up to the present day?
The aesthetics of glasses has changed over time supported, on the one hand, by exasperated research in technology, materials, colors and textures, components and lenses, and, on the other hand, by the creativity and inspiration of visionary designers and stylists.
Over the years, the aesthetics of glasses has suffered greatly from the effects of society's customs, of fashion and its whims and it has incorporated cues suggested by art and futuristic and provocative visions; however, it was above all the communicative and identifying values, of which glasses have increasingly taken charge, that modified its aesthetics. As a matter of fact, a first great aesthetic evolution was recorded with the first designer glasses: the logo was emphasized to transform an anonymous pair of glasses into a pair of designer glasses thus making it a status symbol.
Various models of glasses, inspired by famous people from the world of cinema or society, have become true icons over time. These models, originally manufactured in one of the four canonical shapes of glasses (pantoscopic, perimetric, oval and "mephisto") and fished out of the vintage spirit that often fascinates, have been variously re-proposed, but the addition of details or new colors or new materials has made them fresh and contemporary.
Over time, the aesthetics of glasses has continuously evolved thanks to the creativity and imagination of designers, but it was mainly thanks to the use of new and increasingly sophisticated processing technologies and in particular thanks to the laser, that this aesthetics has changed. Particular processes have made it possible to "sculpt, work, perforate" with extreme refinement materials and textures, even the most classic, to bring out shapes and details, lights and games of colors, to create precious inserts such as lace. A touch of seasonal color inserted in a havana, even the most traditional, makes it immediately modern and contemporary. This is how glasses have become more and more attractive and seductive; an important accessory because it is able to give importance to a face, to characterize those who wear them and to express their personality. They have turned into a communication tool capable of interpreting new languages, transmitting ideological, ecological messages, etc..
Since it was created, people working at Centro O have favored the aesthetic evolution of glasses, proposing to the market unique and customized patterns, realized thanks to the coupling of various layers of material, the flexibility of the production process of acetate block or the highly specialized technology of silkscreen that allows to reproduce detailed and written designs in high photo quality.
Can you tell us about some renowned collaboration?
During my working experience I have met many famous people, stylists and designers, to whom I have enthusiastically offered my contribution and from whom I have always received professional enrichment.
Among them, I remember with particular pleasure, the experience with Louis Vuitton. I started working with this company when it decided to enter the world of eyewear. I was summoned to Paris and, in a first meeting with the General Management, I was asked to collaborate with the Louis Vuitton working group led by Marc Jacob, the designer in charge of the brand at that time, to focus together on various points of the project and follow its implementation. It was their first approach to eyewear; for me it was huge but thrilling undertaking. That occasion was a further recognition of Mazzucchelli and the work done by Centro O and...personally I also felt highly gratified.
There have been several meetings and exchanges of views. In order to promote the product, illustrate its characteristics and enhance the value of acetate, Louis Vuitton also made a film, shot in Paris and Castiglione Olona, in which Marc Jacob talked about the aesthetic characteristics of the product and I explained the acetate manufacturing process in order to fully understand the creative process followed to create a customized product. A very interesting experience.
Would you like to tell us an interesting anecdote of your long career?
This question brings to mind so many memories, a frantic flash back of visions, people, situations...certainly in so many years of activity I have experienced many particular moments, but...here I am in Hong Kong, towards the end of the ‘80s. At that time our customers had their offices and production units in those huge and old skyscrapers called industrial buildings. I am on the 30th floor and, as is customary for the most important customers, I am showing my latest collection. I’m explaining the research carried out by Centro O in the field of fashion and the trends that will influence the market.
However, I am a little bit nervous as I have been smelling an acrid smell for some minutes, a smell like burnt rubber. My customer is very interested in what I’m showing him and keep looking at the collections, keeping asking me questions. I am satisfied with the work done but my focus is moving more and more to that strange smell: I ask the reason, I am reassured: “it often happens! do not worry". The smell worsens, until I notice a certain uneasiness in my customer, I hear all the phones ringing together as well as the entrance bell and…finally…here comes an employee screaming: “there is a big fire downstairs, a plastic factory is burning! run away...take this blanket, go out, cross the whole floor and run fast to the end of the hallway where you will find a back stairs”.
I follow all the instructions but I am very stressed and my legs are shaking. I have a suitcase that is a bit heavy, but so important as it contains the new collection I have been working on for so long with great enthusiasm and which will guarantee sales volumes for the next few months, I have a heavy blanket on and I run wrapped by thick smoke that makes it difficult to see and breathe. I think of leaving the suitcase to be free to run, but then I give up, I cannot leave my "creature". I run, I run and finally I see a light and a door: it is that of the emergency staircase. I breathe a sigh of relief...I'm safe; I look out.. .below us there is a large crowd and many fire trucks with screaming sirens. Plucking up the courage, I am about to go down, when I realize that all the steps of the staircase are perforated, from the 30th floor I see and above all "feel" the height, it seems to be in a vacuum and I am dizzy. I would like to know how to fly, I have to resist, I force myself, all trembling I throw myself downhill...and I find that Chinese people have smaller feet and my shoe size does not find support on the step. I tremble all over, but I just have to go down on tiptoe finding a difficult balance between the suitcase and my body. An effort that I will never forget. I reach the bottom and I stop shaking. I relax: I ran away yes...and with my feet up (because I couldn't keep them on the steps)...but the collection is safe! I breathe a sigh of relief and, happy, I continue my visit in Hong Kong…
What was it like working with Regina Rossi and what have been the most important things you have learned during these years?
Working alongside Regina has been a professional and personal enrichment that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It all started at a time in my life when my future was not clear to me. I say this because I'm a lawyer, so getting close to this world was a great change.
With her delicate but decisive way, she managed to convey the passion of someone who seems to have started working the day before. And it was like this every day we worked side by side. It doesn't matter what challenge we had to face, because there were light days but others tough to face. And this passion has always been there, to enliven our days. Not a loose, wild passion. A considered passion, a passion strongly linked to a professionalism difficult to find.
And all this has been accompanied by a special humanity, private but always present.
These are the things that, together with many others, I will keep as a precious gift.
How is the work of Centro O organized?
Within our team, I have assigned to the people who work with me a specific market and specific customers based on their attitudes.
This allows us to develop particular sensitivities towards different geographic markets as well as to get to know our customers so that we can interpret their requests in the best possible way and be able to offer them dedicated products.
How are the collections that Centro O creates every year developed?
The collections we develop are the result of study, research, passion and lots of sensitivity.
There is no one-size-fits-all rule, because inspiration can come from a trend book as well as from a dress seen walking on the street. From an avant-garde design exhibition as well as from an object found in a yard sale. From a color that our subconscious re-elaborates rather than from many small signals of the market that is oriented towards a particular product still without knowing it.
The important thing is to grasp all these stimuli and share them to find the best way to create the collection that can still make the beholder smile.
At Centro O we are a repository of the trends which have succeeded one another over the decades, and our archives demonstrate it, and even if strongly linked to the experiences gained in the past, we live with our gaze always turned to the future.