50 years of MIDO, 50 years of history and growth in the international eyewear industry

On May 14, 1970, MIDO opened its doors to visitors for the very first time. At the entrance to Pavilion 30, under the wording “MI-DO – OPTICS AND OPHTHALMOLOGY EXHIBITION”, eight flags, including those of the EU’s founding members: Italy, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxemburg, waved in the breeze. Ninety-five exhibitors displayed at the show, occupying a surface area of 3,000 m2; 67 Italian companies and 28 overseas sales agents representing 39 international manufacturers. 34 foreign nations were represented at the first MIDO, from all continents.

Just two years later, in 1972, there were 230 exhibiting companies and 7,000 visitors, not just from Italy, but from 50 countries around the world – a resounding success, especially if one considers the times and the transportation options, not nearly as convenient as today’s.

MIDO set its first records in 1978: exhibit space soared to 24,000 m2 and the number of exhibitors climbed to 400. Also a meaningful year for Italian eyewear, 1978 marked the 100th anniversary of the first Italian eyewear factory, established by Angelo Frescura and Giovanni Lozza in 1878. More than a simple historic event, it was the celebration of an authentic ‘school’ that positioned Italy’s eyewear tradition at the highest international levels.

And now, here we are in the opulent ‘80s: the decade in which fashion struts its way confidently into the world of eyewear and the most in-vogue designers proudly display their products at the show. Starting in 1985, MIDO’s growth curve is again on the rise, taking it to new record-setting heights in 1989 with nearly 740 exhibitors and 28,600 visitors, half of them from foreign countries. The ‘90s catapult MIDO into a global leadership position among industry events, making it the global crossroads for industry experts that it still is today – the place where eyewear professionals can explore the entire gamut of products, meet with global suppliers and get a first-hand look at tomorrow’s trends. A plethora of companies around the world produce eyewear and MIDO offers an unparalleled snapshot of them. The burgeoning supply also opens up a new need: for an anti-counterfeiting service. In 1995, MIDO is among the first to introduce it. During this time, the industry has also transformed itself from a community of small, artisanal family-run businesses into a solid, independent industry. Competition is ramping up and market dynamics and the need for market presence have changed in all areas – from distribution to marketing, to press relations.

With the arrival of the new millennium, MIDO updates its claim, opting for “The future is here”. Visitors to the show explore the most daring expressions of an eclectic and experimentation-oriented fashion system and compare and contrast the entire spectrum of products developed by the international eyewear industry. In the years when globalization and internationalization became buzz words, MIDO made itself over, unleashing its own innovative, driving force in the good years and in those less favorable to the global economy. Following that tragic September 11th 2001, the crisis impacted the entire trade show industry and the eyewear sector absorbed the shockwaves. But the eyewear ‘system’ was quick to react and recover, using MIDO to its advantage: at the 2001 edition, 1,300 exhibitors occupied more than 48,000 m2 of space and 40,000 visitors showed up from all corners of the world.

The new millennium brought celebrities to MIDO, engaged by the industry’s ‘big names’ to increase their sales. In 2015, MIDO again had record-setting attendance, with close to 50,000 visitors, 56% of them from foreign countries and a 10% increase in the number of Italian visitors. From that moment on, exhibitor numbers grow steadily, as do media exposure and attendance numbers. As the eyewear exhibition becomes trendier and ‘cool’, carefully curating its displays and their emotional impact on its audience, the aesthetics of the show itself dramatically change. Consistent with this transformation, the show’s promotional claim also changes, becoming “Live the wonder”, focusing on MIDO’s ability to amaze and engage its audience.

Which brings us to the future and the 2020 edition: year of the 50th anniversary celebrations. Now that corporate social responsibility and sustainability have become topics of great importance and the commitment not only to environmental, but also economic and social sustainability a core responsibility, MIDO has undertaken a dual plan of action that is divided into several parts. These include plans over the next 3 years to obtain ISO 20121 certification, which defines event sustainability management practices that must be able to reduce the harmful social and environmental impacts of the event while contributing to strengthening relations with stakeholders. A ‘Stand up for green’ award for the most sustainable stand will be presented at MIDO 2020. The importance of sustainability is the basic premise – a pivotal asset in future development and a driver of modern business.

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