A success story for female social entrepreneurship. Until very recently, this could have described Progetto Quid, the brand of ethical and sustainable fashion by social enterprise Quid, maker of limited edition clothing and accessories.
“Our collections are made from high-quality fabric waste from top fashion companies and the textile industry,” explains founder and president Anna Fiscale, a graduate in Economics and Political Science with a passion for fashion and a keen interest in equal opportunities and female empowerment. “Each garment is unique, made by our mostly female team – women who have experienced vulnerability and are making a new start at Quid,” she explains. In fact, the company employs 120 people, 90% of whom are women.
“The Latin word Quid means ‘something more’. I honestly believe that this project really has something more and our results speak for us,” Fiscale continues. Famous fashion brands work with Quid like Calzedonia, Ferragamo and Elena Mirò, as well as companies operating in cosmetics and design with a commitment to sustainability like Ikea, L’Oreal, Unilever and NaturaSì. “Calzedonia was our first supporter thanks to its founder Sandro Veronesi, who not only donated fabric for the production of accessories but also financed the project with 15,000 euro,” Quid’s president points out.
In 2014, Quid received a great accolade – the European social innovation award, and in the following years it opened stores in Milan, Genova, Verona, Bassano del Grappa, Vallese, Mestre and Bologna. The company seemed to be building success on success. “In 2019, we turned over more than 3 million euro,” the president adds, “and we planned to develop our e-commerce channel, open further stores and consolidate our partnership with other companies.”
Planned is the operative word here because the Covid-19 pandemic changed all that. “On March 24, we switched off our sewing machines. In compliance with the government’s instructions, our workshop was closed until April 7,” Fiscale tells us. “At the beginning of March, in the early days of the emergency, we closed all nine of our stores.”
This was indeed a heavy blow, but as always Quid decided to tackle it with their heads held high: “The emergency may have shut down our machines, but it didn’t take away our focus on the future,” Quid’s founder proudly tells us.
That future held challenges that were swiftly turned into opportunities. First and foremost came the opportunity to think up a new product for which there was a demand. But which one? The choice was instinctive. “In our own small way, we are also trying to make a difference,” Fiscale explains, “we prototyped various models of re-usable face mask made of anti-bacterial, droplet-blocking fabric and developed two of them.”
Quid developed the first face mask model online with other cooperatives and began distribution at the beginning of April, receiving orders for 35,000 units from public authorities, healthcare enterprises and large supermarket chains.
This took more than a simple reorganization. Quid had to transform in the most industrial meaning of the term. “Though switching production was necessary to ensure Quid could continue to work, we also had to take on significant costs to cover supplies and R&D. We wanted to make this into an important initiative believing that ‘together we are stronger’ and we worked with other cooperatives across Italy. Many social enterprises in Italy are indeed switching and redesigning their production to deal with the current situation. Quid created a starter pack for the production of the first samples and a tutorial with packing instructions. The other cooperatives joined the project, got organized to start up production and respond together to market needs. The textile machines started up again,” Fiscale recalls.
The same attention to detail that went into the production of fashionable clothing was now applied to medical protection – as confirmed on Thursday April 16, when the Italian health service approved one of the models.
This is how Co-ver was born, the reusable protection mask made in Italy, prototyped by Quid and approved for sale as a type I item of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
Fiscale continues the story: “We were also committed to creating prototypes of masks that were different to those already on the market and certified by the health service. We focused on reusable masks with less environmental impact than the disposable models. Italy needs 90 million face masks per month, just think of the environmental impact. Our Co-ver masks reduce that impact.”
To obtain certification of their masks, Quid had to introduce and fine tune a Quality System ensuring product traceability and meeting the specific standards required by the health service. Quid is one of six companies out of 268 to receive the seal of approval to produce masks and probably one of the first to make them out of a washable fabric.
Co-ver face masks
Made in Italy and produced mainly in Quid’s Verona plant with the support of the Art Lining and other cooperatives, personal protective equipment Co-ver meets the required quality standards.
Co-ver face masks are now available online and can be bought in convenient packs of six, 50 or 100 pieces (costing 27, 215 and 390 euro respectively) and larger quantities can be ordered.
“When this emergency is over,” Fiscale concludes, “we know that in the long term we face our biggest challenge: how to reboot companies like Quid, together with the rest of the country. We had planned new store openings, now we will need time and resources to re-open even our well-established stores. We have strategic costs that we cannot cope with alone. But we will not forego our training programmes for new recruits, apprentices and trainees. In the coming months, the country will need us even more and we will need our customers. We are doing everything in our power to turn limits into new beginnings and to use this waiting time to design the future together.”