A look from Malo's women's collection

MILAN — A white knight is on the horizon to try and save storied cashmere brand Malo, WWD has learned.

Reached by phone, entrepreneur and fashion consultant Luciano Donatelli confirmed he is heading a pool of financial investors that is eyeing the troubled Malo company. The company is currently controlled by a Russian private investment fund, whose name has always been kept under wraps and which acquired the brand in 2015 from Tuscan luxury retail group Evanthe. Malo, based in Campi Bisenzio, Tuscany, is now in the midst of a financial and industrial crisis and, as reported in June, an adviser has been tapped to find a buyer.

Following a number of strikes over the summer, unions Filctem Cgil and Femca Cisl Firenze stated on Wednesday that the company was set to hold another eight-hour strike the following day, and that employees would be traveling to Rome to the Ministry of Labor.

“We are striking because we believe the industrial plan is not credible and because we don’t share the company’s ideas,” said the workers through a statement issued by the unions. “There is no need for imaginative solutions, conceived only to obtain the extraordinary redundancy. We will ask for guarantees on maintaining the level of occupation and for the requalification of the plants in Campi and Piacenza.”

“I believe in Made in Italy production and we are working on keeping the company’s manufacturing here—actually on bolstering it,” said Donatelli, a former Ermenegildo Zegna group manager. “I am sentimentally attached to the brand through a strong friendship with [the late cofounder] Alfredo Canessa. I would hate for the brand to leave Italy,” he said, addressing the rumors that a Chinese group may be studying the Malo financials.

The unions also believe that the owners want to sell the company’s jewel in the crown, a flagship on Milan’s Via Montenapoleone, and outsource production to China and the U.S. The company, they say, has asked for an arrangement with creditors and they contend the owners are not taking the necessary steps to find a buyer. The lack of investment has led to a “paralysis” at Campi Bisenzio, “where there’s even shortage of yarns,” the unions claimed.

Donatelli said he has already put together a team of professional managers, and that his goal is to protect the workers and actually increase the number of artisans. Over the years Donatelli has initiated licenses with brands such as Gucci and Valentino and was president of industry associations Confindustria Biella and vice president of Confindustria Piemonte. Asked to address the main issues at Malo, he pointed to a lack of investments, including in machinery,  and no development in strategic markets such as the Far East, China and the U.S.

The crisis is expected to hit 60 employees at Campi Bisenzio, and 40 at the plant in Borgonovo Val Tidone, in the Emilia-Romagna region.

Malo was first affected by the bankruptcy of its parent company IT Holding in 2009. The company was sold to Evanthe by IT’s three state-appointed administrators.

The brand is designed by an in-house creative team, headed by Giacomo Canessa, Alfredo’s brother, who established the company in 1972. Alfredo Canessa died in 2009 and Giacomo returned to Malo in 2016. Over the years, Malo was designed by the likes of Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi, Alessandro dell’Acqua and Saverio Palatella.

Malo operates a range of monobrand stores in key locations such as Milan, Rome, Los Angeles, Miami, Moscow, Seoul and Tokyo, along with boutiques in international beach and ski resorts, including Courmayeur.