10/08/2012 01:00 pm ET

Leonardo Del Vecchio, Luxottica Founder, Went From Orphan To Eyewear Titan

The eighth richest man in Europe was once an orphan.

Leonardo Del Vecchio, the founder and chairman of Italian eyewear maker Luxottica, was born to a mother who could not afford to care for him. At the age of seven, Del Vecchio, whose father died five months before his birth, lived under the care of nuns in an orphanage.

As a teen, he supported his family with the earnings he made as an apprentice to a tool manufacturer in Milan. Then, in his mid-20s, Del Vecchio moved to Agordo, the eyewear capital of Italy, where he started his own glasses company.

Now Luxottica is the world’s largest manufacturer of eyewear and the owner of more than 6,000 retail stores worldwide, including the Sunglass Hut and Lenscrafters chains. That's made Del Vecchio, 77, the 74th richest man in the world.

The eyewear empire, which did over $8 billion worth of sales in 2011, took off in the late ‘80s, when Del Vecchio approached Italian designer Georgio Armani with a seemingly new concept for fashionable spectacles.

“[Del Vecchio] understood that glasses were so critical for vision. But on the other side, they were part of our personality; they were part of us," Luxottica's CEO Andrea Guerra tells "CBS 60 Minutes" in an interview that aired Sunday.

Armani and Del Vecchio's relationship has been rocky over the years. In 2002, their brands called off a long-standing licensing deal. But both men have since rekindled their companies' partnership, signing an exclusive agreement earlier this year to manufacture and distribute Armani glasses beginning in 2013.

Watch Guerra reveal Luxottica founder Leonardo Del Vecchio's secrets to success in the video above.



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