This November, Italian eyewear company L.G.R opened its first flagship store in Milan, Italy. The moment marked a major milestone for founder and CEO Luca Gnecchi Ruscone, who was already producing over 30,000 pairs of high-end glasses a year for countless optical and prestigious fashion retailers across the globe. The store finally grants a home base to a brand with international influence and appeal—one whose existence originally stems, surprisingly, from colonial Africa.
“This atmosphere accompanies every aspect and every new creation of the brand,” Ruscone says of L.G.R’s roots in Eritrea, the northeast African country sandwiched between Sudan and the Red Sea. His ties there started with his grandfather Raffaello Bini, who was commissioned as a photographer to document the Italian colony of Asmara during World War II. Bini stayed long after the war finished and Italy’s investments stopped; he started importing photography equipment and selling it to the local expatriate population. He later opened the Bini Shoe Factory, which became the largest shoe factory in Africa by creating 12 million affordable plastic sandals each year. To round out his business accomplishments, Bini began importing optical frames and sunglasses from Italy, also for Italian expats. “The memory of my grandfather’s voyage into Africa nearly one century ago is taken into this modern future by his young and passionate grandson, nostalgic about vanishing worlds and values,” Ruscone says of adapting his grandfather’s business, which began for his own travels to Asmara in 2005.
“Globalization can be a great opportunity, but it often devastates delicate microcosms made of simple human relations and gestures that did not have the strength or will to adapt to this new consumeristic environment,” he notes of the lack of true artisans in modern eyewear. “You have to produce fast in order to supply fast or your orders could be cancelled. Before, there was a patience with the consumer, full of expectation about quality and detail.” Now, L.G.R is entirely crafted in Italy by three separate artisanal families. The high quality of the luxury eyewear pieces hasn’t gone unnoticed, with fans including everyone from legendary photographer Mario Testino to supermodel Gigi Hadid.
The opening of L.G.R’s two-floor store at 36 Corso Garibaldi in Milan saw an influx of the Italian fashion scene’s glitterati, reinforcing the brand’s existing fandom and a general zest for its new and very physical manifestation. But despite the opening being both an accomplishment in itself and a nod to the brand’s proven success and rapid growth, Ruscone finds himself chasing a new dream as soon as he realizes an old one. “For me, [happiness] does not happen when you reach your ultimate goal, but it’s the process of chasing your goals,” he replies when asked about feeling successful. “Overcoming obstacles on the way to success makes me happy. Happiness and success are in the equilibrium between struggle and accomplishment.”
You can learn more about L.G.R and check out their top-of-the-line products here.