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.
Third generation family business AGL has its headquarters in Marche, Italy. After Lombardy and Venato, this is country’s third region most affected by the pandemic.
With that top of mind, sisters Vera, Sara and Marianna Giusti who run the label founded in 1958 by their grandparents, are donating 30% of their April profits to help their local health authority.
FN caught up with one third of the trio, creative director Vera Giusti, to discuss how the business is responding to the issues posed by the crisis.
With employee safety paramount, she explained that all workers are privately insured via the company. Furthermore, the team decided to close their factories on March 25, a week in advance of the Italian government directive to do so. Fortunately however, they were well organized and the fall collection had already gone into production so they don’t anticipate being too late with deliveries. The challenge, she said, will be ensuring adequate safety needs are met when production restarts on May 3.
The brand has also been fortunate when it comes to wholesale orders and payments owed. Although they have seen some reductions they haven’t experienced any major cancellations and, thus far, the fall selling campaign finalized before the crisis, is up on last year’s by 30%. The key, said Giusti is their strong relationships and personal involvement with their retailers.
In normal circumstances, they would be visiting stores for customer events but the new normal involves some lateral thinking so they are looking at digital trunk shows streamed from their homes. “We want to continue to support our wholesalers,” Giusti said.
Likewise, to shore up selling campaigns for for men’s spring and women’s resort, they responded proactively to the cancellation of Milan Men’s Fashion Week in June. “We are concentrating on new and creative solutions so we are opening a digital showroom which clients can access via a password,” she revealed.
It isn’t all plain sailing, though, and direct to consumer sales via their e-commerce chanel saw a 20% drop in March. However, they could take solace from the fact that sales were already up by 60% on the same period last year which minimized the impact. This month figures have been more positive which Giusti hopes will continue. Sneakers have been the most popular purchase followed by comfy mid heeled sandals. They sell 60% of the latter to the U.S. market.
The the team is also reassessing their business ethos. “Designing for spring ’21 is the first time we asked ourselves if people really needed all the styles we propose,” Giusti said. And while they pride themselves on their price to quality ratio, this time they have focused more on usability. “Now, we’re consciously thinking more about that than whether something is in fashion,” she explained.