With EU Travel Ban Still in Place for U.S., Made-in-Italy Shoe Designers Adjust Their Entire Process

Today marks the first day that the European Union will lift its travel ban, allowing residents of some 15 countries including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and possibly China (if the country lifts its own ban) to enter the EU after months of a pandemic-induced travel lockdown.

Noticeably, the list does not include the U.S. (or Brazil or Russia). For U.S.-based designers and brands, the continued travel ban has implications for the entire process of designing, sampling, production and merchandising — and even marketing and buying — in European fashion capitals like Milan and Paris and the cities’ outskirts where many products are made.

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The Calzaturificio M.G.T. factory in Italy, which reopened in early May, will not see any of its U.S. clients due to the ongoing travel ban that was extended July 1.
CREDIT: Rex/Shutterstock

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For many, that means continuing to rely on virtual fittings and video meetings, which is something that Emme Parsons has been doing throughout the pandemic. The Los Angeles-based designer, whose eponymous line specializes in minimalistic strappy sandals made from leather — and all made in Italy — has been working with her factory remotely since the country reopened.

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Emme Parsons Mary in Gold sandal.
CREDIT: Rex/Shutterstock

It has kept the design and production process going for Parsons, but the shift to virtual has not prevented cutbacks. “We are still developing new styles, but we decided to skip resort to avoid being overinventoried,” Parsons told FN.

The decision to cut a resort collection may have been an easier one for some ready-to-wear brands, but it could be seen as more of a setback for a sandal-focused footwear brand, which banks on holiday-season sales to customers planning warm-weather getaways. This year, however, there are likely to be less of both vacations and their requisite sandals, come December.

Other designers, like Neil J. Rodgers, have completely eliminated business travel plans for the year. “(The travel ban) won’t have an impact as all our current prototyping and sampling is complete,” Rodgers told FN. “We’ve been able to successfully transition our product development process, so as to eliminate travel to Italy during the pandemic.”

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The Laura mule, a new style from Neil J Rodgers.
CREDIT: Rex/Shutterstock

Even with a full transition to product development to a virtual platform, designers will still have to contend with — and keep tabs on — the developing situations of both the travel ban, which the EU will reassess every two weeks, and the September fashion month schedule, which is now set to hold physical shows in both Milan and Paris this fall. Milan’s Micam show is also still set to show in-person come September, another event that will be difficult for designers to commit to with an ongoing travel ban.

“We had planned to go to New York and Paris for market (in September),” said Parsons. “(Now) we will be relying on video calls to present the collection.”

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