As COVID-19 wreaks havoc across Italy, the country’s premium denim sector has come to a virtual standstill. For over a month, most parts of Italy’s Lombardy region—home to denim players like Berto, Candiani Denim, Hub 1922, Tonello and more—have been under lockdown as the country became the European epicenter of COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 21, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte issued a mandate to shut down all nonessential manufacturing activities in the country—including businesses in the denim supply chain. To tide over this crisis, some denim companies diversified their production but others like Gnutti are awaiting orders to resume normal operations whenever that may be. Denim brand, Blue of a Kind, felt the pressure as some of its wholesale customers changed their orders. As a result, the brand decided to hold back deliveries until retailers have a clearer idea of how things will unfold.
Smart strategies to complete orders
“Made in Italy” garment finishing technology firm Tonello is focusing on completing prior commitments and guaranteeing employees all necessary safety measures. All departments not linked to Tonello’s production have adopted a “smart working” strategy and are continuing their work activities from home. The office of Italian denim brand HUB 1922 also followed instructions, restrictions and measures issued by the Italian government. The team relied on technology to stay connected with clients, though roadblocks remain. PG Denim stays connected with suppliers and clients mainly by phone and testing new finishes and trends by emailing clients photos.
Slowdown due to contraction in orders
According to Tonello, there is likely to be a “significant slowdown” in the denim industry and a re-evaluation of supply chains. The company hopes in the recovery, people, consumers, will have a positive momentum to start again with new ideas and greater values.
Blue of a Kind plans to continue manufacturing in Italy. But the brand anticipates many challenges ahead for the denim industry. The brand expects to see significant reduction n receptivity from the market in the future.
The outbreak has forced companies to hit pause. According to De Conti, Head of Rudolf Hub 1922, the pandemic has made the supply chain stronger. He hopes more empathy and understanding across the value chain once the pandemic is over .
Domestic manufacturers to grow
According to Paolo Gnutti, PG Denim Founder and CEO, this is the time to produce with care and responsibility instead of prioritizing quantity and price. He expects Italy to come out of this pandemic with a newfound love for local independent businesses, domestic manufacturing and quality over quantity.
As companies are being forced to think proactively about their future rather than being reactive, De Conti hopes the denim sector maintains the pace at which it was innovating—and perhaps come out with greater ideas supporting each other in crisis. De Conti also expects companies to re-evaluate some prior procedures of how they do business. According to him, the crisis proves that remote interactions can be efficient, are fast and definitely cheaper than flying. Gnutti urges the industry to use digital tools to stay in touch online. He views the denim community needs to support each other—both psychologically and also in terms of business.