While clients including Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and Bottega Veneta have commissioned new embroideries, her staff is working reduced hours, with perhaps 15 out of its 20 employees in the atelier on any given day.
“New things are coming and old things are letting us wait too much, so we are waiting to see how our future will be in the next month,” Ms. Grasso said. “I am trying to be positive.” Some clients have requested new samples for dresses to be worn by celebrities, she said, but wedding gown commissions, a big part of her business, are still not appearing.
The government aid that the company received so far has fallen short, she said. “Hand embroiderers are a very small reality, but to the government we are together with machine embroiderers,” Ms. Grasso said. “We are a handcraft company, not an industry. It’s not real, what they see about us.”
Other companies, like the shoe manufacturer AGL in the central Marche region, acted on their own. Now in its third generation, the company is run by three sisters, Sara, Vera and Mari Giusti, who oversee a work force of 110 employees, 65 percent of whom are women.
“Our community is really close; we consider our team like family, so we improvised our own kind of extra insurance for our workers, so if they got sick, they could stay at home as long as necessary and benefit from health insurance,” Sara Giusti said. “It’s complicated. You can’t really rely on handouts from the government, and since you can’t fight what’s going on, sometimes you have to make up your own rules and measures.”
As China began to reopen last fall, AGL was able to open in its first shop-in-shop, in the SKP shopping complex in Beijing. It also finished renovating a larger showroom on the Via della Spiga in Milan, secured certification of its environmental impact management and moved its e-commerce activities in house,the sisters said. While business was down 28 percent in comparison with its 2019 returns, its online sales have been growing and the sisters say they remain optimistic.