Andreas Malathounis X 3
In this issue’s Anniversary segment, we’re not celebrating the birthday of a brand or eyewear label. We’re celebrating the 25th work anniversary of an industry veteran who knows the business like few others: Andreas Malathounis has been to this rodeo for a while now, and he currently distributes three international labels through his Switzerland-based iBrands agency. EYEWEAR caught the well-traveled jetsetter in a rare quiet moment for our interview.
Andreas, which three emotions best sum up your current state?
Pride, happiness, and contentment. But there are more on my wish list.
What was your first step into the eyewear industry 25 years ago?
Working as an optician, I was ready for a change, so I founded my first agency in 1990. Back then, the market just didn’t offer that many interesting collections. So after a few interviews I opted for WOLFGANG PROKSCH and THEO, both of which were unique in their own right at the time. And I had the privilege to build them up in the DACH region,
What was the journey like from there?
Turbulent. I initially spent ten years working for THEO, before founding my own eyewear label to bring frames crafted from natural horn to a worldwide audience. Then I worked on various projects and designs for international eyewear brands. Simultaneously, I was working as a consultant on a wide number of projects, until in 2010 I received an offer to distribute three eyewear brands – which marked the start of iBrands Europe.
What’s the unique feature of iBrands?
We strive every day to meet the wishes of our clients and work towards our mutual success.
And do you always succeed?
I would like to think so. I’m really happy that we get the opportunity of working with loyal customers – at this point you can call them friends – in an atmosphere of mutual respect. And that’s not necessarily a given nowadays.
Which labels are currently part of your portfolio?
GERMANO GAMBINI, KIRK AND KIRK and OTTOMILA (8000) EYEWEAR.
What makes these three labels unique?
GERMANO GAMBINI has been known a traditional Italian eyewear label since the 1960s. Germano supplies leading Italian fashion houses with his eyewear designs. Until this day, the brand represents 100% craftsmanship “Made in Italy” – never compromising the quality and workmanship. With the “iLeggeri” collection, the brand has become synonymous with extremely lightweight and thin acetate frames that suit current lifestyles.
KIRK AND KIRK is not your average eyewear collection, but brings decades of tradition into the mix. The British label is known for its acrylic frames, implemented with fashion-savvy designs.
OTTOMILA EYEWEAR is the third label and our main sunglasses collection. 8000 EYEWEAR is the label for flat lens designs blending a vintage look with modernist aesthetics. With ultra-flat, mineral lenses, the models are crafted in limited editions while the aesthetics always follow a sense of purpose – from the actual products all the way to the packaging.
Does each label follow a unique distribution strategy?
No, there are no separate strategies. I’m generally convinced that in each city, there is a demand for exclusive styles. Unfortunately, there are only a few opticians with the necessary guts to clearly stand out from others. But their numbers are growing. It’s up to every individual optician to choose. And everyone can get in the ring with us.
But as far as your responsibilities go, you serve different functions with each of your three labels. That’s rather unusual, no?
My primary task for all three labels is actually the same: Business development, one my strengths. For KIRK AND KIRK, my agency serves as the connection between the brand and the optical boutique, so we consciously chose to be the sales agent. For GERMANO GAMBINI we work as a traditional distribution company, building a well-organized network within the DACH countries. And for 8000 EYEWEAR we are a European distribution companies with some of the best optical boutiques on our list of close friends.
Andreas, let’s be honest: three brands and such a large distribution region? Sounds like a Mission Impossible?
No, just the opposite. A well-planned structure and organization make it a Mission Possible. We are able to reach the majority of our customers at one fell swoop through international tradeshows such as Opti, Mido, and Silmo.
What are the three main reasons why opticians should buy from iBrands Europe?
Top-of-the-line collections, close customer focus and potential for mutual success.
What are three eyewear styles that are going to gain relevance in 2016?
Minimalism is the way to go.
What are the three mega trends for the future?
Intelligent products and infrastructure, disruption in markets and consumer behaviors, and transformation of gender roles.
What are three urban areas every visitor to Europe needs to see?
Paris – the upbeat and intense way of live cultivated by the Parisians is always refreshing.
Berlin – my daughter lives there and the town is always a cultural and culinary standout.
Athens – currently home to an interesting budding subculture.
You reside in the small town of Kreuzlingen on the Bodensee lake. How come?
Due to the high quality of life – and the wonderful lake, of course.