Will Artisanal Shoe Factories In Italy Risk Closure? Le Marche
Le Marche is one of the twenty regions of Italy and is well known for its shoemaking traditions and is most famous for its shoe factories involved in the manufacture of the finest and most luxurious Italian footwear.
It is a quiet and rural region located in the central area of Italy nestled between the Apennine mountains and the Adriatic Sea and is just a three-hour drive from Rome.
It is the ancestral home of Italy’s Artisanal Shoe trade with lots of footwear factories ranging from a small scale to large-scale factories manufacturing different varieties of footwear.
Matteo Pasca, the Director of the Arsutoria School, a Milan-based institute for design and technical training in footwear and accessories, speaking from his home in Milan due to the ongoing lockdown says there is a strong link with the territory.
He also added that most of the factories were still small businesses run by families that hire locally and promote their products from within and that most of these factories have a tradition of generations that pass the skill from parents to children.
The deadly coronavirus has eaten up Italy with over 221,000 total confirmed cases and 30,000 recorded deaths.
As we all know, shoe craft service is not any country’s major priority in the bid to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, these factories should not be overlooked as even its current climate is posing a threat to them.
San Mauro Pascoli which is only seventy-five miles up the coast from Le Marche is well known as the region’s capital for the manufacture of high-end women shoes dating back to the 1830s and this shoemaking community was granted its own flag.
Lauren Bucquet, founder of Italy’s designer shoe label, Labucq says it’s a cultural thing in lots of respects as it is a much more acceptable norm to follow in your family’s laid down footsteps than it is in the United States where when he grew up, he was ready to set his own path and move to New York City.
She also added that in his own opinion, he was not interested in doing what his parents did whereas in Italy, it is a more culturally accepted and expected norm for you to go into the family business.
She launched Labucq after a decade-long tenure at Rag & Bone in 2018. While at Rag & Bone, she worked directly with factories across Italy, China, Spain, and Portugal and grew her way to the top ranks by becoming the brand’s Director of Footwear and Accessories.
After launching Labucq, she went into partnership with two family-run factories in Tuscany solely because of these two dates back to the 1970s.
Bucquet has from her experience with working with Italian factories observed how people evolve or scale upwards and has also observed how the younger generations take over their elders.
Matteo Pasca says that there is an ecosystem that works together and that some of the companies are very, very small. He cited an example that you can have a big factory-like Prada working with an embroidery company of 10 people and that regardless of this, you still have this strange mix of very teeny companies working for very big brands.
Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown in Italy, some manufacturers were yet to complete the production of the Fall 2020 collections while others had completed delivery to retailers but their products were sent back as stores were closing thereby posing a challenge.
Pasca also added that if the retail stores are suffering, then along the chain, it would also put manufacturing at risk because the factories had already paid for the materials and may not be able to complete production because of the hold on retail orders.
Most factories have gotten outright cancellations from large-scale retailers while others like Labucq partners have asked that any outstanding orders be put on hold pending the time facilities are permitted to fully re-open.
The re-opening is already in progress as earlier on the 4th of May, Italy’s Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte enacted a gradual plan permitting factories to resume production in phases.
Matteo Pasca also says that everybody is working on safety procedures, documentation, and protocols and that there is a need to ensure that workers can be in a safe environment without spreading the virus once they get back to the factories.
In lieu of the neglected Fall 2020 footwear and accessory collections, that factories are approaching upcoming seasons with a realistic degree of cynicism.
Most Trade Shows and Annual fairs slated for the summer like Italy’s leading leather trade fair, Lineapelle which is held in Milan has been postponed.
Pasca foresees the Spring 2021 fashion weeks being canceled or held online further necessitating support from manufacturers’ larger clients, including deluxe luxury houses that don’t own or operate their own factories in the region.
He also added that this will not only pose an economic threat but that if the big brands and retailers refuse to take the risk together with their small manufacturers, that there is the real risk of this network of companies dying.
Smaller factories working with more bootstrapped brands or independent retail partners may have the option of setting up more strict and rigid payment terms which may include generating a letter of credit through a bank that would guarantee financial compensation.
Matteo Pasca went on further to say that the Louis Vuitton or Chanel are pushing to have high-end products and that to be able to have these high-quality products, there is a need to also have high-quality people making them because this job is labor-intensive. Your workers are not substitutes for machines and as such if you lose the people, you lose the value in the products.
Bucquet’s associate, Rosanna Fenili has spent decades overseeing quality control in factories all across Le March and Tuscany regions with a wealth of knowledge as to how the industry works.
She resumed work on the 4th of May and observed that there was an understandable air of concern across the shoe factory system but that she also detected so much positive energy as everyone was smiling and happy to go back to work.
Though factories are not yet fully reopen for business, she speculates that manufacturing should kick-start by August and that on this note, factory workers would be hinted to take their traditional month-long summer holiday.
She ended by saying that employees will be happy to work and that this really is a revolution.
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