Other women employees have been victims of sex trafficking. Some of the employees are recovering drug addicts or alcoholics. And others are older employees who had been laid off from jobs in Italy’s fashion industry, bringing with them invaluable experience that allows them to train others.
In the warehouse level, on the floor below the factory, Marco Penazzi was working on his inventory of fabrics. Several kilometres of textiles — everything from the finest Italian wool for suits to outrageously coloured polyester for swimsuits — are in rolls in floor-to-ceiling racks, ready to be sent upstairs when the designers call for it. More than just a warehouse manager, Penazzi travels all over Italy looking for donations of fabric.
For Penazzi, who was trained as a nurse and had also worked on social projects in the United States before joining Quid, the diversity of the place makes it appealing.
“The cool thing is, no matter where you come from outside, in here we’re all colleagues,” he said. “In here, you’re not your background.”
But there’s also a common sense of purpose, he said, before getting back to work.
“In the beginning I was a volunteer,” he said, “but now we’re a real fashion brand, and we have to compete with other fashion brands. There’s always more to do.”
Later that day at Progetto Quid’s elegant boutique in old Verona, saleswoman Carmen Fusco was folding clothing to put on display. She was asked if customers buy the clothes for the story behind them or the fashion itself.
“I would say both,” she said. “I was a customer before I started working here; I always felt good about buying clothes here because you’re contributing to society. But it had to be something I liked.”