Here’s How Designers Are Fighting the Impact of the Coronavirus Inside Italy’s Lockdown Zone

In the early hours of Sunday morning, the Italian government ratified an effective lockdown that bans Italian nationals from entering or exiting the Lombardy region. The move, designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, impacts about 16 million people, or a quarter of the Italian population. The Lombardy area includes both Milan and major shoe manufacturing districts. Today, FN spoke to the Italian shoe designers and brands working in this red zone. They explained how their companies were being affected by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the measures they are adopting to keep staff and customers safe while doubling down on digital strategies to mitigate the virus’s impact on their businesses.

Giuseppe Zanotti

“COVID-19 has inevitably impacted all businesses. It will have a domino effect for the worldwide economy. Our top priority at this time of struggle is everyone’s health, so avoid traveling and gatherings, but most of all, we have to be patient and very strong.”

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Zanotti, boot
Giuseppe Zanotti, fall ’20, Milan Fashion Week.
CREDIT: Zanotti

Cesare and Arianna Casadei, Casadei

Cesare Casadei: “It is frightening because we don’t know what is going to happen, but we are doing our best to get through the situation. We are keeping to the rules imposed by the government and prioritizing the health of customers, employees and the community around us. There are good and bad times in life, but we will try to emerge from this stronger.”

Arianna Casadei: “Buyers cancelling fall sales appointments has been a concern so we have created video lookbooks and manuals, and we are doing live video links with buyers instead. We were previously in the early stages of going omnichannel — merging our boutique stock with our e-commerce business — but now we have accelerated that process of stock relocation. At times like this, you have to be creative, and Italians are good at adapting. Many employees are working remotely if they have come from affected areas. We live in Rimini, which is part of the red zone, but the factory in San Mauro Pascoli is outside that zone, so we can’t go there. Compared to the SARS epidemic 10 years ago, we have more possibilities in terms of outreach and smart working. Something in the industry needed to change and even though I would never have wanted it to happen this way, we need to face the situation and use it as impetus for a reboot.”

casadei
Casadei, fall ’20, Milan Fashion Week.
CREDIT: Casadei

Fabio Ducci, CEO, Onward Luxury Group

“Our country is definitely facing a serious situation, and we are doing our best to protect our employees and our clients. We’re encouraging smart working and video conference business meetings, following all the latest restrictions and measures. To facilitate our clients, we have provided them with digital materials and video calls, showing all the collections and supporting them with a virtual showroom. Regarding production, within the restrictions provided by the ministerial order, our factories are open and are working, thanks to our workers, who are committed to the company.”

Samuele Faili
Samuele Failli, fall ’20. Failli’s brand is licensed and manufactured by OLG.
CREDIT: OLG

Mariasole Cecchi, Les Petits Joueurs

“We are based between Milan (Lombardy) and Florence (Tuscany). I left Milan on Saturday as planned on the 6 p.m. train, which was really empty. But when news of the lockdown leaked, I heard that the later trains were packed with people trying to get out of the affected zone. Everything in Milan is now closed, and all our staff are working from home. When the spread of the virus was announced, it was our first week of sales and we had about 100 appointments canceled. Buying from line sheets is not the same, so we are launching a full-on virtual showroom. Buyers and press will be able to log in with a password and see the whole LPJ universe, with models in the showroom trying on our shoes and bags and us talking about them. It will feel like you are there in real life. Our digital agency put it all together for us in four days flat. We have also registered more sales in our digital store in the last week while people are staying home and shopping online. So we are pushing that side of the business, too.”

les petits joueurs
Les Petits Joueurs, fall ’20.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Les Petits Joueurs

Nicolò Beretta, creative director, Giannico & L’Autre Chose

“I have been working from home since our presentation during Milan Fashion Week, as has the rest of my team. The day after our presentation was the day the first COVID-19 death was reported in Italy. We should all avoid as much contact with one another as possible to stop the spread. I am trying to take something positive out of this situation. When I am not working remotely on conference calls and designing my resort collection, I am the taking time to reflect and think how we can approach things differently. We are also focusing on our online business. When I am not working, I am shopping online and I think a lot of other people are doing the same. We are lucky in that we have retailers all over the globe, so current sales are not being impacted. Our production is done in the Marche region in northern Italy, and while things are slowing down, I am still receiving samples as the postal service is still working.”

giannico, fall 2020, milan fashion week
Giannico’s Penelope mule with a cantilevered heel shape for fall ’20.
CREDIT: Giannico

Annamaria Brivio, Paris Texas

“It’s important to follow the rules of the government in order to exit the situation as soon as possible. It’s too early for us to know the full effect of COVID-19 on our business. We finished our Paris market just before everything exploded with better results than we expected, but I’m also aware that we have to wait the next month and see the evolution. Some buyers cancelled their appointments in Milan and bought from line sheets, but we are lucky in that we have showrooms in New York as well. I’m sure that everything will be solved as is already happening in China. We have to stay strong, do some rescheduling and stay focused on the next step of our business. Eventually things will come back to normality, and we will have to be ready.”

paris texas
Paris Texas, fall ’20, Paris Fashion Week.
CREDIT: Paris Texas

Mario Moretti Polegato, CEO, Geox

“The situation is moving at an incredible pace and changing every day. Brick-and-mortar sales in northern Italy —  the Lombardy, Veneto and Piedimonte regions — are certainly being affected, especially in malls where stores can open during the working week but have to shut at the weekend as per the government’s emergency measures. We are taking appropriate measures to protect employees and customers in our stores, where we have almost as many antibacterial products as shoes. We are both exercising common sense and complying with government guidelines. Fortunately, our e-commerce has not been affected. Even though our headquarters in Montebelluna is located just outside the affected region and we currently have no cases of the virus, our team can work remotely should they choose. We are also reducing travel, limiting face-to-face meetings using Skype and trying to work in a different way.”

geox
Geox, fall ’20.
CREDIT: Geox

 

Ada Kokosar, Midnight00

“I believe we have to stick to the measures advised by the government. My team and I have been working remotely for two weeks now. When we have to meet in person (only for compelling reasons), we keep a distance and check our body temperatures first. I am not seeing immediate feedback, but I am taking into consideration how potentially this situation will affect the business on a larger scale. Buyers are understandably reluctant to buy via line sheets without seeing the shoes in person. We started the buying season with pre-fall in the middle of January when we only felt the impact from the Asian market, but that was big enough because we have so many Asian retailer partners. Our factory in Cormano, just outside of Milan, is still operating. My feeling, though, is that it’s necessary to edit the new collection and narrow down the styles. Everything will go slower so it is important, in order to preserve the deadlines and the quality, to make a smaller collection. However, each style will be offered in more variations. Otherwise things are at such an early stage that I’m still working out what decisions I should take.”

Midnight00 spring '20, Paris Fashion Week.
Midnight00, spring ’20.
CREDIT: Midnight00

Riccardo Sciutto, CEO, Sergio Rossi

“I believe in positive energy and in the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Today, more than ever it is important to explore our humanity and respect for one another. From a business standpoint I am always looking to create opportunities against all odds. So being flexible to the changes of the market and very quick has proven crucial to navigate this difficult and unprecedented situation. Our production in our San Mauro Pascoli factory is fully functioning but in total respect of the Italian government’s directions and restrictions with the priority to keep our workers and artisans safe. We are also resorting to smart working to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our stores in China are slowly showing positive signs, and e-commerce has proven a key tool to support our business and the requests of our clients at this time.”

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A lime green square-toe pump with a crystal buckle detail from Sergio Rossi’s fall ’20 collection.
CREDIT: Sergio Rossi

 

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