As Italy Lifts Its Lockdowns, Renzo Rosso Discusses What Comes Next

Yesterday, the strict lockdown we’ve been all submitted to here in Italy from the beginning of March was partially lifted. Life will slowly and cautiously resume a more familiar pace—streets will be less eerily empty; people will start going back to work. The contagion curve has somehow been flattened: Intensive care wards in hospitals are less burdened; the death toll has fallen considerably. There’s room for hope. But the threat posed by the coronavirus has by no means dissipated. So the government is adopting a prudent approach, easing the confinement gradually. For now, some restrictions of movement will still be in place; protective masks are mandatory, and safe distancing has to be maintained everywhere. Schools will still stay closed until September; stores will be permitted to open only after May 18, but not restaurants, gyms, or hairdressers. Sushi, blow-dries, and yoga classes will just have to wait, at least until the beginning of June. But runners are now free to put their fashionable sneakers on and exercise in city parks lush with green, courtesy of dropping pollution levels—one of the pandemic’s very few perks.

The country’s engine will also restart, with factories resuming operations. Fashion being one of the powerhouses of the Italian economy, it seemed timely to ask entrepreneur Renzo Rosso, OTB group’s founder and president, about his view of the challenges the pandemic has forced our industry to confront. How has his company adjusted to the crisis? How is he engaging in social responsibility in this moment of turmoil? And how will Made in Italy play a crucial role in the future of fashion?

Yesterday factories in Italy were allowed to resume operations. How is your company managing the reopening?

A few departments have already been active, like general logistics to guarantee shipments to countries where commerce is starting to recover, as in China. Online operations and e-commerce have never stopped working, thank goodness. From April 27th, creative departments have also been activated—prototypes and product development, as well as the design studio. We’ve all been working remotely, experiencing, I must say, interesting and effective relationships with technology. From now, we expect the workforce to be much more present onsite in our facilities, giving production a much needed push. The engine has to be restarted; it was time. We are extremely well prepared regarding security measures to safeguard the health of our people; we are even more strict and vigilant than what the government’s official guidelines recommend. We’ll alternate working shifts, we have masks and gloves at the ready for everyone, and safe distances will be strictly respected. Safeguarding health is paramount. Thermo-scanners will take everyone’s temperature at the beginning of every shift; the entire workspace will be scrupulously sanitized with bio-degradable products. We’ve been lucky so far—none of our 7,000 employees has tested positive for the virus.