In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout, the businesses of young, emerging and independent designers are likely to be the most vulnerable. In a new series, FN will spotlight these creatives to learn how they are adjusting to a new way of working and living.
Lauren Bucquet has been self-quarantining for weeks now, after being in Europe during fashion month, when the novel coronavirus was just beginning to spread. But that doesn’t mean the designer isn’t keeping busy. These days, that means entertaining her three-year-old son while simultaneously maintaining her brand, Labucq.
Since 2018, the former director of footwear and accessories at Rag & Bone has designed seasonal shoes that combine playful, trendy silhouettes with Italian craftsmanship. Now as spring ’20 ramps up, Bucquet and her small team of two are trying to balance grappling with the current pandemic and keeping Labucq relevant. The Los Angeles-based brand just debuted its latest collection, which includes a chunky, geriatric-chic sandal appropriately called the Boomer.
“It’s a really tricky balance to feel optimistic in a time of uncertainty, but we are excited to debut this new style,” said Bucquet, who was featured as one of FN’s Emerging Designers of 2019.
Bucquet said one of the biggest challenges Labucq is facing during the coronavirus crisis is the struggle to compete with large companies that are holding site-wide sales in lieu of store closures. While consumer demand has come to a grinding halt, small designer brands like Labucq are facing huge increases in cost when it comes to production and international shipping.
“It costs us nearly four times as much now to get shoes shipped out from Italy during this time,” Bucquet said, adding that this is prompting the brand to do a slower rollout for the season.
To buy: Labucq Boomer sandal, $330.
But aside from wrestling with the realities of being a small business in the coronavirus era, Labucq is still finding ways to help during this time. The brand has announced that 10% of its site-wide sales will go to two hospitals in Milan via GoFundMe.
“I wanted to do something in Italy because the situation is so bad right now and we rely so much on them,” said Buquet on the initiative. “I wouldn’t have a brand without all the tanneries, factories in Italy that we collaborate with.”
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Starting today, Labucq will donate 10% of all sales to two Milan-based hospitals: Cremona, and Niguarda, via their GoFundMe pages (see links in bio). Both hospitals are inundated with patients and are in great need of this funding. These donations will be made weekly at the current euro exchange rate and will post to each page. Shoes may not be top-of-mind right now, but if there is a pair that you've had your eye on, this is a good time to shop and give back at the same time. We also encourage you to donate directly as well. We’re grateful to report the good health and safety of the men and women who work in our factories in Tuscany, some distance from the worst of the outbreak. However, this is an ongoing concern for us, and for them. While we’ve been assured our spring deliveries will happen on time, the obvious, overriding concern is the health and safety of our customers and partners.
Labucq works with two factories and several tanneries in the Tuscany region of Italy to produce her company’s footwear. Although the country is getting hit hard by the pandemic, Buquet said that its footwear factories are still operating.
“Everyone in Tuscany that we work with is healthy, and they are still operating, just on much stricter guidelines for sanitization and only staying on an as-needed basis,” said Bucuqet. “Thankfully, they are all okay.”
To Buy: Labucq Page sandal, $295.
For now, Labucq will continue to take orders and ship worldwide.