Billionaire Fashion Icon Passes Away At 87

( Leonardo Del Vecchio, the chairman of fashion eyewear company EssilorLuxottica and one of Italy’s wealthiest businessmen died on Monday at the age of 87.

Del Vecchio had the classic rags to riches life story. He grew up in an orphanage in Milan and went on to amass a fortune during Italy’s post-war economic revival. By the end of 2021, Del Vecchio was Italy’s second-richest man after Giovanni Ferrero of the Nutella-making group.

His Delfin holding company is the largest shareholder in Mediobanca, the Italian financial services group.

Del Vecchio founded Luxottica in 1961, building up a company that owned the Ray-Ban brand of designer eyewear. Luxottica later combined forces with France’s Essilor in a 2018 merger.

Luxottica now makes the designer frames for such brands as Armani, Chanel, and Burberry.

Last year, Del Vecchio and his family made number 60 on Forbes’ list of the richest people in the world, with $24.5 billion.

He remained the executive chairman of EssilorLuxottica until December 2020 when he handed the day-to-day operations to Chief Executive Francesco Milleri.

Del Vecchio’s father was a street vendor in Milan but died before Leonardo was born. Most of Del Vecchio’s childhood years were spent in an orphanage. In his twenties, he became an apprentice making parts for eyeglass frames before going into business for himself.

He moved to the Dolomite Mountain village of Agordo in 1961 to take advantage of an offer of free land in exchange for providing jobs to young people as a way to discourage them from fleeing to the cities for work.

It was there that Luxottica began.

The company grew from a small trailer to a sprawling complex employing thousands of workers and producing tens of thousands of frames every day.

Luxottica lists 33 top brands of eyewear including Ray-Ban, Prada, Michael Kors, Coach, Brooks Brothers, and Valentino.