man wearing dark aviatorsWhile only a few months ago it was easy to look at the luxury market with rose colored lenses, the outlook for two of Italy's top sunglasses is now starting to get a bit dark -- sunglasses at night dark, even. Both based in fashion-centric Northern Italy, Luxottica and Safilo produce some of the world's most popular and expensive eyewear for brands like Ray Ban, Prada, and Ferragamo. Ever since hard times have descended upon the fashion market, both companies have been really struggling to make ends meet.

Safilo, apparently the worse off of the two, announced last month that it will be shutting down its factories for two months while it tries to figure things out. Meanwhile, employees will get state-subsidized paid leave, collecting 80% of their wages to sit at home and wait.

Then there's Luxottica, which doesn't seem to been in quite such a dire situation. Still, they've also had to tap into state resources to put 6,000 of their employees on paid leave for a total of 4 days in January and February. In a deal worked out with unions, Luxottica will dole out $3.2 million per year in benefits to its workers, ranging from scholarships to even baby food. As one Luxottica rep puts it:
"The assumption is practical: You cannot deliver and produce quality products unless people enjoy a decent quality of life and have the basic needs fulfilled."
Will your next pair of Ray Bans be made in China? For the workers in N. Italy's sake, lets hope not.

[via BlackBook]