Italian Fashion Operations Begin to Reopen

Dhani Mau

Companies like Prada and Gucci are sending employees back to work.

Prada employees return to work.
Prada employees return to work.

In March, which was somehow only last month, the Covid-19 outbreak swiftly and aggressively devastated Italy and put the entire country on lockdown early in the pandemic's global progression. This temporarily crippled one of Italy's biggest industries: fashion. The country is a manufacturing hub for luxury fashion businesses both local and abroad, and after weeks of lockdown, factories and other facilities are beginning to reopen.

Prada announced on Thursday that it had partially reopened several of its properties. First were its production sites in Tuscany, which sent about 300 employees back to work in the leather goods, apparel and footwear departments on April 20. This made the prototyping and sample-making that is "essential for developing the company's forthcoming collections" possible again, according to a press release. It then partially reopened its factories in Umbria, Marche and Veneto, followed by workshops in its Milan headquarters.

As its facilities reopen, Prada says it's taking numerous precautions to ensure the health of its employees. These measures include reduced hours and staggering of shifts to ensure distancing of approximately two meters between workstations. Employees will also have their temperatures taken and be provided with protective gloves and masks upon arrival at work. Prada also worked with a local hospital to devise a protocol by which nurses will test all employees monthly for Covid-19 antibodies, and then for the virus itself if they test positive. The process will also be provided to workers' family members if they test positive.

Prada employees being tested upon return to work.
Prada employees being tested upon return to work.

"In this emergency situation we have not only been considering when to reopen our manufacturing facilities, but above all how to reopen them in total security, in order to safeguard our employees' health and protect them from the virus," said Prada Group CEO Patrizio Bertelli. "We therefore immediately sought advice from leading healthcare facilities and from specialist pharmaceutical companies to identify the top-rated medical technology currently available to safeguard the health of our employees with these virus-screening procedures and to contain the virus. The introduction of these measures means we can now confidently restart production in Tuscany, and look forward to extending the above protocols to our plants and offices in other regions, when they reopen."

Italian shoe label AGL also announced Thursday that its Marche factory and Milan office would be reopening next week — again, with extensive precautions. The brand says  the facilities were professionally sanitized and will be regularly, and access will be staggered. Employees will wear masks and gloves and those who can work remotely are still encouraged to do so. The three sisters behind the brand are also providing extra healthcare benefits for their employees, and hope to produce their Fall 2020 collection "without delay."

Florence-based Gucci has also begun getting back to work on product. On April 20, it reopened ArtLab, its prototyping facility for leather goods and shoes. According to WWD, it did so by establishing safety protocols with help from scientists. "This will allow us to lay the foundations for a wider reopening of our production capabilities and of the Made in Italy supply chain, when possible," CEO Marco Bizzarri told the trade.

Italy's lockdown officially ends May 3, meaning will likely see many more facilities start to reopen next week.

Note: This article was updated to include further details about AGL's reopening plans.

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