MILAN — Hugo Boss has initiated the procedures to lay off 21 employees and close a site in Scandicci, outside Florence, and unions Filctem Cgil, Femca Cisl and Uiltec Uil billed this decision as “illogical and unreceivable.”
The employees, mainly women, protested the decision by striking in Scandicci on Wednesday morning, flanked by the mayor of the town, Sandro Fallani.
The site develops women’s leather goods and footwear prototypes and Hugo Boss is planning to move this operation to Asia and Portugal, according to the unions, which claimed that the company justified the decision by saying that the market and consumers “are no longer interested in Made in Italy.”
“This affirmation is false, serious and unacceptable and hides only a speculative operation” to maximize their profits, said a joint statement from the unions, which underscored how Hugo Boss is “the first big fashion brand to leave Scandicci rather than to arrive in the town.” Describing the decision as “a slap in the face,” the unions concluded that this strategy will not be appreciated by the markets, since “luxury is going in the direction of a quality increase and the request of exclusive products.”
“To live up to changing customer demand and market requirements, Hugo Boss Group has recently adjusted its global strategy,” said Hugo Boss in a statement sent to WWD. “In this context, and after a profound internal analysis, the company has decided to reorganize the processes and workflows in its shoes and accessories business. This has in turn resulted in the decision to close the Scandicci site.”
The company “is working on a mitigation plan,” with the goal “to minimize the impact for the 21 employees affected as much as possible,” continued the statement.
“To this end, the company is in close exchange with the employees as well as with the relevant trade unions to explore all possible options for the respective employees. The talks are currently continuing. All relevant person involved are regularly updated on proceedings and decisions.”
On Wednesday, following the strike, Sonia Paoloni, national secretary of the Filctem Cgil union, said the group’s decision to close the plant is “unacceptable,” given the remarkable expertise and skills of its employees, and would mean to “abandon the most crucial phase in the creation of new products that represent Made in Italy production: prototypes.”
Paoloni contended that Hugo Boss “is leaving the country not to respond to market demands,” but to replace Italian production with “Made in China or Made in Portugal, thus lowering the positioning and de-qualifying the brand. Maximizing its profits [to the detriment] of those skills that over the years have created the added value” of Hugo Boss products.
She concluded by expressing her concern that this may lead to other such decisions in the industry. “While the whole world is looking at Tuscany and Scandicci” for its leather goods and footwear expertise, Paoloni believes Hugo Boss may be “turning its gaze to far away horizons” seeking “blurred illusions.”
As reported, casualwear is seen to be key to an ongoing post-pandemic at Hugo Boss, which has been mostly known as a formalwear brand until relatively recently.
In November, Hugo Boss reported that business was back to pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter, as revenues grew 40 percent to 755 million euros.
This story was reported by WWD and originally appeared on WWD.com.