For weeks, we have been deeply saddened by the continuing Coronavirus crisis situation in Italy, both on a humanitarian level and also the concerning impact on once buzzing design studios in Milan, and the production centres of the Northern regions.
We spoke to a senior menswear designer in Milan (who did not wish to be named), to find out how the situation is affecting the industry in the biggest-hit fashion capital in the world.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions, especially during such a challenging and unsettling time.
Are you on full lockdown at the moment? If so, how long has it been, and how long have you been working from home?
“We are on full lockdown here in Italy, entering the fifth week.
During the first week we were working at home in a ‘smart-working’ mood, which meant that all the teams were working regular office hours, but from their houses. That lasted for one week, and afterwards, due to the grave situation in Italy (especially in the North) some companies have decided to put the workers in “forced vacations” which means that we are currently not operating on any level.
In the last three weeks, the factories and the garment producers have also been included in the list of the complete lockdown – and therefore all the processes of the collection are currently on hold.
What was the last day in the studio like? What did you need to prepare personally, and how did you prepare your team for the prospect of working at home?
The last day in the studio was very surreal, we’d prepared to be in quarantine, but the reality felt really strange – initially, everybody thought that it would only be for 7-10 days. We divided our tasks between the teams, each Designer prepared a to-do list for the days to come, and we agreed to update each other at the end of every end day. As at first factories and suppliers were still open, we thought it would be manageable to proceed with the collection developments, but as the factories have closed, everything has been put on hold for the moment.
How disruptive has the crisis been for the brand? Please give examples if possible as to how it’s affected design of the collections / your supply and production chain.
“We have never witnessed something like this in our times, so the effect of the crisis on the brand is still to come, and nobody knows how it will be. Even the most positive estimations cannot predict how it will affect our brand, or any brand.
The design process is now on hold, factories in Italy are closed, and there is a complete lockdown on all industry. So, you can’t really launch any trials, mock-ups, or prototypes – which in this point of time for Summer collection, you should have done 40%, at least.
So the design process is stopped, product development is stopped and when factories will be back to work they have to deal also with the past season productions (the ones of AW20-21) so nobody really knows how they will deal with this amount of work, and how it will affect the timing for new collections. This especially affects small – medium companies who do not have their own ateliers or their own production companies.”
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
“This is the biggest challenge so far, the actual lockdown, the situation here in Italy. I think that trying to be as much positive as we can is the real challenge for us as designers, as we entered this situation without knowing how we will come out of it, professionally and on a personal level.
But seeing what is going in the world as a whole, one cannot wonder how it will affect the fashion world?
It is true that fashion – as a form of art – should always reflect the spirit of our times on one hand, and present a sense of optimism and fantasy on the other, but only the brands with a clear, strong, and authentic message will survive this crisis, in my opinion.
(After the crisis) people will have to adjust to a new economic status and will search for and buy only the product which they can really connect with or attach to. Something with an added value…something which will awaken a feeling inside of them.
That will be the next challenge for us – to refine our message and product, and reconnect to our audience and consumer.”
How are you and your team keeping in touch – how do you continue a collection without being in the same space together?
“We communicate daily through Whatsapp and we update each other about the progress of our individual “to do” lists.
As everything has been shut down at the moment, it is more about planning for the future and less about working on new things.”
Are there any positives coming out of this situation as yet?
Also, are you enjoying working from home / what are your top tips for working from home as a designer?
“Working at home is a positive change, I think it allows you the time to dive into things and reconsider some parts of your work in more detail.
It certainly gives the opportunity to concentrate on things that are important to you within the design process, and in a more clean, disconnected environment, you’re able to evaluate your work more clearly.
I think that the most important tip for working at home is to still try and maintain a routine for yourself, even if different to your normal one, but which allows you to work in a pleasing and satisfying way.”