Prada Group is restarting production with “cutting edge” safety protocols that involve double-screening employees in collaboration with a hospital in Florence—a first for any Italian company, it said.
The luxury house’s announcement Thursday comes on the heels of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s outlining of plans to ease restrictions put into place seven weeks ago to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 contagion. Conte said this week that measures that brought the country to a standstill would be relaxed starting May 4, allowing parks, factories and building sites to reopen and people to visit their relatives, but only if they reside in the same region.
Italy, which has seen a slowdown in new confirmed cases, has succeeded in flattening the curve, though the battle was hard won. Official numbers say the pandemic has resulted in 27,682 deaths—higher than any other country in Europe.
Prada says it has recalled 300 employees to work in the leather goods, apparel and footwear departments at its Arezzo premises in Tuscany, where they’ll be involved in prototyping and sample making for the company’s forthcoming collections. The brand had previously kept only its Montone factory online to churn out 80,000 medical overalls and 110,000 face masks for healthcare personnel.
Factories in Umbria, Marche and Veneto will partially reopen next, followed by the collection and sample-making workshops in Prada’s Milan headquarters.
Safety measures, the company said, include reduced hours—or hours split up over multiple shifts—to ensure “staggered access” to the sites and social distancing of roughly two meters (6.5 feet) between workstations.
Employees have their temperatures taken daily on arrival and are provided with personal protective equipment, including gloves and masks, to wear for the full duration of their shift, Prada said. All workstations are equipped with bottles of sanitizing gel, and rooms are sanitized twice daily. Out of caution, the canteen will remain shuttered for the first few weeks after reopening.
A team of specialist nurses in dedicated rooms has also started carrying out serological testing on employees using kits procured from Menarini Diagnostics. All employees will receive serological testing on a monthly basis for the foreseeable future. Anyone who tests positive will receive a viral test, also conducted on premises.
“In this emergency situation we have not only been considering when to reopen our manufacturing facilities, but above all how to reopen them in total security, in order to safeguard our employees’ health and protect them from the virus,” said CEO Patrizio Bertelli. “We therefore immediately sought advice from leading healthcare facilities and from specialist pharmaceutical companies to identify the top-rated medical technology currently available to safeguard the health of our employees with these virus-screening procedures and to contain the virus.”
Prada will be shelling out in full for the cost of this “diagnostic operation,” which will see an estimated 1,000 tests per week in this initial phase before rising “significantly” as production ramps up to full capacity. Prada will extend the double-screening process to family members of employees who test positive.
“The introduction of these measures means we can now confidently restart production in Tuscany, and look forward to extending the above protocols to our plants and offices in other regions, when they reopen,” Bertelli said.
A recent report by Altagamma, Boston Consulting Group and Bernstein estimates that the luxury sector could lose between 30 billion to 40 billion euros ($32 billion to $43 billion) in sales due to the pandemic.