A look at Gucci ArtLab in Florence.

MILAN Gucci’s agreement with trade unions revealed on Saturday is a first sign of a restart of fashion’s production pipeline that does not involve protective masks or medical overalls. On April 20, the Florence-based company will reopen its leather goods and shoes prototype industrial complex called ArtLab.

“Since the beginning of this emergency, before it was officially defined as a pandemic, we have put people’s safety and well-being at the center of all the decisions we have taken,” said president and chief executive officer Marco Bizzarri. “Our health — the health of us all in the Gucci community — was, is, and will remain Gucci’s absolute priority. After very careful consideration, we are now taking the decision to reopen our ArtLab prototype facility, in agreement with trade union representatives, by guaranteeing the highest level of safety and precautions defined with the help of leading 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.”

While Italy remains in lockdown until May 3, the reopening was made possible by government provisions issued on April 10 and following an agreement signed with labor unions. The latter is based on the Safety Protocol signed on March 15, reinforced through a collaboration with the virologist Professor Roberto Burioni from Milan’s Vita-Salute San Raffaele University.

The prototyping activities will involve a limited number of the employees at the ArtLab, around 10 percent of the total 1,000.

Gucci detailed the additional preventative measures being taken to reinforce the government regulations for fighting the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which include, before work resumes:

▪ Complete sanitization of all spaces, followed by specific surface swab tests to ensure the good results.

▪ Remote preventive training and informative sessions, through mail and company social channels, on the measures to take when returning to the workplace.

▪ Commuting to the workplace. All employees are encouraged to commute to the workplace using their own vehicles, also avoiding carpooling. For this very first phase, employees who do not own their own means of transportations will have an individual company car at their disposal.

▪ Shifts. A staggered schedule of shifts created for the prototype department will ensure that large groups do not gather during working hours nor upon the employees’ arrival.

During work, Gucci will take employees’ upon arrival and also will enforce the following:

▪ Information and training for staff on hygiene rules, on the correct use of common areas and on everything required to operate in maximum safety within the company premises.

▪ Anticontagion kits. Upon arrival, each employee will receive an anticontagion kit containing three face masks, two pairs of gloves and one pair of safety goggles.

▪ Sanitizing kits. Each employee will be equipped with sanitize kits to maintain the cleanliness of workstations and machinery, which will still be repeated on a daily basis.

▪ Layout. Workstations used by the staff who are returning to work on prototypes are arranged so that workers maintain the distances required by the regulations in force.

▪ Cafeteria, changing rooms and break areas will ensure the necessary social distancing is maintained at all times and will be sanitized daily.

Gucci inaugurated ArtLab, its first leather goods and shoe industrial complex, in April 2018. Based in Scandicci, outside Florence, it covers almost 400,000 square feet. Bizzarri at the time said the complex was “the biggest industrial investment in the history of Gucci.”

ArtLab integrates all the different phases of the pipeline, ranging from the making of prototypes for all leather goods and men’s and women’s shoes; research and development, or the testing of the durability of materials, for example.

Gucci has worked with its supply chain to donate 1.1 million surgical masks and 55,000 medical gowns to health-care professionals in the Tuscany area in Italy. In addition to Bizzarri’s own personal donation of 100,000 euros, Gucci has donated 2 million euros to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and has reached out to its global community with crowdfunding campaigns with the claim “We Are All in This Together,” also launched internally to the company’s more than 19,000 employees globally.

Fashion associations have been urging the Italian government to lift the lockdown to allow fashion’s manufacturing pipeline, which comprises a web of small and medium-sized companies, to start working, in compliance with the health guidelines that have been drawn to avoid another spread of the virus.

Last week, Confindustria Moda, which groups more than 65,000 companies and 580,000 workers for a total turnover of more than 95 billion euros, inked a protocol with the unions defining the way to restart production in the textile, fashion and accessories sectors. Claudio Marenzi, president of the association, said “if activities do not urgently restart, we risk seeing 50 percent of our companies disappear, especially small and medium-sized, which represent 90 percent of our sector.”

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