Hugo Boss to close down Italian leather goods factory and delocalise
Hugo Boss is delocalising more than just a runway show. At a time when many labels owned by major luxury groups are investing in Italy, and especially Tuscany, tapping local expertise, Hugo Boss is about to shut down its factory in the town of Scandicci, on the outskirts of Florence. As a result, on Wednesday 9 Feb., the German label’s leather goods artisans in Scandicci went on strike. Three Italian trade unions, Filctem Cgil, Femca Cisl and Uiltec Uil, called for industrial action after Hugo Boss informed them it intends to lay off 21 employees.
Another employee, the 22nd, is on their way out as their contract is expiring, so that the factory’s entire, highly qualified workforce will effectively be laid off. “A decision that is illogical and unacceptable,” said union representatives. In a press release, they stated that “the company intends to delocalise the activity carried out in Scandicci (i.e. the development of prototypes and product samples for the women’s leather goods and footwear collections) in Asia and Portugal.”
The unions added that they believe “the company’s decision to downgrade the quality of its products and shift collection and samples development, in addition to their manufacturing, outside Italy, is a grave mistake.” The unions are set to continue in their efforts until Hugo Boss will backtrack on the collective dismissal decision. “[Hugo Boss] is the first major fashion label to leave Scandicci, instead of coming here,” noted the unions. To explain the decision, Hugo Boss told the unions that “market trends and consumer tastes are no longer compatible with made-in-Italy products.” Union representatives countered by saying that “the claim is false, serious and unacceptable, merely a screen for a speculative operation.”
On Wednesday morning, Scandicci mayor Sandro Fallani went to offer his support to the striking employees. He called on Hugo Boss to act responsibly, underlining how Scandicci is a hub of major importance, “the premier industrial centre for leather goods in Europe, if not worldwide.” One of Gucci’s main production sites is based in Scandicci. Prada, Christian Dior, the Richemont group, Burberry and Chanel all have factories there, while Saint Laurent is expected to open a workshop there in 2023.
“This decision is hard to fathom. We absolutely cannot understand how a company that has been settled here for 15 years, and has until now been a provider of employment and jobs, can suddenly decide in such inexplicable fashion to leave a town that (…) is a world-class centre for leather goods and their development,” said the mayor, cited on the Scandicci municipal website.
Banners draped by the strikers on the railings outside the factory bear the slogan ‘#be your own boss’, a reference to the ad campaign recently launched by Hugo Boss and hugely amplified by influencers, and underneath that, the words ‘#with no salary, and at home’. Consumers, notably the Gen Z cohort that Hugo Boss is targeting with its new advertising strategy, are increasingly asking their favourite labels to show genuine social and ethical engagement, and these dismissals may cause an upset.
All the more so now that Hugo Boss is buoyant (in Q4 2021, it generated a revenue of €906 million, up by 51% on an annual basis and by 12% over the same period in 2019, prior to the pandemic) and is about to stage a major event in Dubai. Contacted by FashionNetwork.com, Hugo Boss did not respond. The unions stated they will have a video-conference meeting with Hugo Boss’s management on Thursday.
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