To save jobs and fight the pandemic, an Italy sustainable fashion firm shifts to protective gear in only 10 days

By Chris Welsch

In Europe, the crisis began in northern Italy and hit hard. The government shut down factories, offices and shops to try to slow the spread of the virus.

Anna Fiscale, the founder of a sustainable fashion company called Quid, was forced to close her factory in Verona and shut down nine retail shops. She was worried about the survival of her enterprise and her 140 workers’ jobs.

In her life, Anna has made a point of finding the positive side of the worst situations. The pandemic was no exception. “This was another moment to turn an obstacle into a new starting point,” she says.

In the course of 10 days, Anna and her team retrofitted the factory to make reusable masks and started producing them. During development, they made more than 10 trips to a lab in Modena to have the masks tested, and in mid-April the Italian National Institute of Health certified them as “medical devices,” or personal protective equipment. Now 80 of her workers are producing more than 10,000 masks per day that can be used in the fight against COVID-19. The masks can be washed and reused up to 15 times without losing their protective qualities.

A big battle ahead

Valeria Valotto, the company vice president, says Quid still has a battle ahead, and that many employees are eager to return to work. “Our nine retail stores have been closed since the end of March,” she says. This cut essential cash flow and forced 25 employees out of work temporarily. “We are lucky to still be operating, but it hasn’t been easy.”

Quid has an online boutique for its clothing brand, known as Progetto Quid, but Anna says web sales aren’t a substitute for the revenue from its stores in cities across Italy, including Verona, Milan, Genoa, Mestre and Bassano.

© Quid

Quid is a past finalist of the Social Innovation Tournament, run by the European Investment Bank Institute. The tournament supports entrepreneurs whose companies are improving society.

Quid has grown from three employees in 2013 to more than 140 today. The company earned €3.2 million in 2019. Quid works with fabric factories and fashion brands to recover high-quality textiles that would have been thrown away. Using its own designers, Quid creates limited-edition collections. The workforce is more than 80% women, and most of them come from some kind of vulnerable situation. Some are refugees, some are older women laid off by the textile industry, some are in recovery from substance abuse and addiction.

Anna says that after the lockdown ends, Quid will reopen its stores across Italy and start producing clothing again. But it will continue to devote about 30% of its capacity to producing masks, as long as they are needed.