MILAN — You won’t catch Marco Bizzarri wearing sweatpants while working from home.
“No way — those are for sports only,” said Gucci’s president and chief executive officer in a phone interview as he establishes a daily routine that should be the norm, as he underscores, but is sort of new to him. “It’s the first time in 30 years that I’m not [converting] time zones,” he chuckled.
Life and work at the time of the coronavirus crisis is offering a new perspective on things and, while Bizzarri is “trying to control what is possible to control,” he admits that things are changing so quickly that he has been cutting back on the number — and length — of meetings. Technology is helping to stay connected with his team, but Bizzarri has canceled more institutional meetings. “They are now less official, more on demand. Things change every two or three days and we need to respond speedily to new problems, we need to be flexible. The meetings are faster and we get to the point quickly. We still work a lot, but in a different way.”
While his role implies an optimistic take on things and he tries to keep his spirits up, Bizzarri’s views are realistic and grounded in facts. He said Gucci is observing encouraging signs in Mainland China, where the decline in store traffic is narrowing and there is a new “propensity to shop.” On the other hand, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic remains significant in other Asia-Pacific markets, and the situation has substantially deteriorated in recent weeks in Western Europe and, more recently, North America.
Gucci has 487 stores around the world and, as the company has been protecting its employees, it has also been safeguarding the workers in the stores, which were closed even before the lockdowns. Nobody has been laid off, Bizzarri said. “We want to guarantee continuity. There are a lot of different mechanisms in different countries, but we have a great human resources structure. There’s a lot of talk about values and it is at moments like these they can be proven. Together with Kering, we are protecting our employees, even if this means denting sales.”
Asked if he believes the coronavirus crisis will change the fashion industry significantly, he admitted this is a moment to try and understand the future and to learn to improve things.
“We are thinking of consumers after all this, they will have to be supported and there’s plenty of bleak scenarios, but we are all animals that change skin. Things will not radically change. Fashion is a way to give joy,” said Bizzarri. “Perhaps there will be more sobriety, we’ve seen this after other crises, in 2001 or 2008, there are cycles. ”
The executive also thinks the new generations and technology will further impact the industry, with more virtual reality, but sustainability is here to stay and that people will still crave novelty. “There may be changes in the way the collections will be presented, and perhaps journalists and brands will travel less, although that remains to be seen, but fashion is creative and it must remain so and it must be protected. This is what differentiates us from other sectors, from fast fashion, for example.”
He contended fashion will continue to need to communicate and while some believe that digital events could replace physical ones, he hoped there could be a middle ground.
“In the short term, in six months, we will see a bit of everything but there are many opportunities and ways to reshape how we live.”
Italy has been hard hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. As of March 25, the Civil Protection registered 74,386 infected patients and 7,503 deaths in the country. It also reported 3,489 patients were in intensive care units. Bizzarri praised the Italian government’s actions in tackling the crisis.
“It’s too easy to say afterwards what could have been done before but nothing like this has ever happened. I think the government moved very fast, with a clear message, taking decisions while being pulled in every direction, with only partial information. This is the biggest crisis after World War II. Who could have ever been prepared for something like this?”
The Camera della Moda and its associates have submitted their requests to support the Italian supply chain and fashion pipeline and Bizzarri hopes the money will also be channeled in infrastructures as he urged a more streamlined bureaucracy and unity at both the Italian and European levels.
Bizzarri, who hails from the Emilia Romagna region, earlier this month made a personal donation of 100,000 euros to the Ausl IRCCS of Reggio Emilia, the entity gathering a range of eight hospitals in the Emilia Romagna region. He has also been helping his own community in Reggio Emilia to secure medical supplies for his local hospital.
As reported, on Thursday Gucci pledged a donation of 2 million euros to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Italian luxury house will make two separate donations to crowdfunding campaigns: 1 million euros will be donated to the Italian Civil Protection Department (Protezione Civile) in partnership with Intesa Sanpaolo, while the other 1 million euros will be channeled to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund in support of the World Health Organization, through a matching campaign with Facebook.
Gucci is giving a shout out to its global community to raise funds and help health services with equipment and supporting the scientists who are working on vaccines and treatments.
In Italy, the amount of 1 million euros to the Civil Protection will be donated through Intesa Sanpaolo’s ForFunding crowdfunding platform with a dedicated webpage gucci.forfunding.it, where the #GucciCommunity can also make donations. The priority will be to create new ICU beds.
Internationally, Gucci’s 1 million euro contribution to to the United Nations Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund in support of the World Health Organization (WHO) will be made through a Facebook $10 million matching fundraiser. The COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund’s aim is to support WHO’s lifesaving work across countries. This includes helping to track and understand the spread of the virus, to strengthen patient care and ICUs, to improve supplies for health personnel, including protective devices, and to accelerate the development of vaccines and therapies.
The #GucciCommunity is invited to make a donation to the Solidarity Response Fund for WHO through the “donate” feature available in the IG stories on http://www.instagram.com/Gucci. The total amount will be matched by Facebook as part of its matching initiative. Since it launched less than two weeks ago the Solidarity Response Fund has drawn donations from more than 200,000 people worldwide.
Gucci’s own site as well as its social media channels will also feature links to donate to both crowdfunding initiatives.
The crowdfunding campaigns, with the claim “We Are All In This Together,” are also launched internally to the company’s more than 19,000 employees globally.
Starting on Friday, Gucci will also put its social media accounts and its more than 70 million followers at the disposal of the World Health Organization, to help amplify health and safety information.