A masked carnival reveller wearing a protective face mask at the Venice Carnival, which was cut short because of an outbreak of coronavirus in northern ItalyPhoto: REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri
An unprecedented shutdown of museums is taking place in Venice, Turin and Milan as private and public institutions close their doors in the wake of the coronavirus (Covid-2019) outbreak across northern Italy. Seven Italian regions have now been instructed to close museums and implement various restrictions: Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Free entry to state museums throughout Italy, offered on the first Sunday of each month, has also been cancelled by the ministry of culture for time being.
All of Venice’s civic museums—including Museo Correr, the Palazzo Ducale and the Museo del Vetro—have closed. A spokeswoman for the museums tells The Art Newspaper: “The government and region will decide tomorrow [the course of action] for the next few days; museums are likely to be closed until 1 March.”
Events in the Teatrino space at the Palazzo Grassi, the exhibition venue run by the French billionaire collector François Pinault, have subsequently been cancelled. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is closed until 1 March, according to its website. The Venice Carnival, which was due to end Tuesday, was cut short, finishing on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Lombardy regional official Giulio Gallera told Associated Press that museums in Milan would stay closed for at least seven days. The Pinacoteca di Brera, which houses works dating from the 14th to 20th centuries, remains closed until 3 March. The move was made “in compliance with the decree of the Lombardy Region concerning measures to contain coronavirus contagion”, according to the institution’s website. Both venues run by the Fondazione Prada—at Largo Isarco and at the Osservatorio photography exhibition space in the centre of the city—are also shut as well as Milan's cathedral and the opera house La Scala.
In Turin, museums have been told to close for at least a week. “Please be advised that due to the health emergency in Italy, the Ministero della Salute [department of health] and the Regione Piemonte have issued an order to close all museums temporarily, until 29 February,” says a government notice. The ministry of health says that museums and other cultural institutions must be temporarily closed “to contain the Covid-2019”. At the Castello di Rivoli, the private view for the exhibition Facing the Collector: the Sigg Collection of Contemporary Art from China, scheduled to take place today, has also been cancelled (a conversation between collector Uli Sigg and the artist Ai Weiwei will be streamed on YouTube).
More than 200 cases of Covid-2019 have been confirmed in Italy with five deaths reported. Towns in the neighbouring Veneto and Lombardy regions have been placed under quarantine, with restrictions placed on more than 50,000 inhabitants who cannot enter or leave certain areas.
The advertising campaign for Austrian hosiery and lingerie label Wolford’s Spring/Summer 2019 collection is a celebration of #truecharacter. The idea is to show that Wolford brings out the best in women, in all circumstances. Like in the picture below, with two models on a satin bedspread fighting for a red phone, clad in fishnet stockings, stiletto heels and striking (faux?) fur.
The campaign was lensed by star photographer Ellen Von Unwerth, who has a long list of celebrity photoshoots and magazine covers for the likes of Vanity Fair, GQ and Elle under her belt. Von Unwerth’s openly acknowledged inspiration, Helmut Newton, is also a nod to Wolford's history since, over the years, the German photographer has taken care of many campaigns and calendars for the Austrian label. The CEO of Wolford, Axel Dreher, commented that “to surprise and sometimes provoke isn’t something new, it’s part of Wolford's DNA.”
The campaign videos are featured at Wolford’s 117 monobrand stores and on the label’s website, alongside the products of the Spring/Summer 2019 collection. From January 2019, Wolford will introduce a new interior design in two stores in Paris and one in Amsterdam.
The new-look communication style, more offbeat and colourful than before, is part and parcel of Wolford’s redesigned brand identity. The lingerie label recorded a 14% revenue downturn in the first quarter 2018, from May to July, following a series of organisational changes. Besides the decrease in quarterly sales, which were down to €25.01 million, Wolford also posted a €7 million loss. Last May, Chinese group Fosun acquired a majority stake in Wolford, with a 50.87% shareholding.
Wolford’s annual results showed an improvement on Tuesday, although the high-end hosiery and bodywear company isn't in the clear just yet. It reduced its losses “slightly” in the year to the end of April, despite higher investment and lower revenue, and also said that it has created “the basis for future growth.”
And that will include new product lines such as athleisure that’s due this autumn. Importantly too, it’s also now targeting the key Chinese market and benefiting from its revamped image.
The company, which is listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange, said its revenues fell 8% to €137.22 million, and that it shared the same problems seen by many store-based retailers, “suffering from the effects of far-reaching structural change and a slowdown in growth in West European fashion markets.”
But the company also said that “thanks to the sustainable impact of its existing restructuring program,” it “fully made up for the €11.85 million reduction in its revenues.”
The operating loss (EBIT) showed a slight improvement, narrowing from €9.22 million in the previous year to €8.98 million this time. And the net loss also narrowed to €11.1 million from €11.53 million.
The success of its restructuring program was “reflected above all in the company’s personnel expenses,” which fell by almost €15 million to just over €60 million.
The company said its balance sheet is in a much better position than it was a year ago following its successful capital increase and that its course is set for “profitable growth”. It added that the financial year just ended was seen as “an opportunity to lay major foundations to stabilise its revenues.”
This was helped by the creative work it has been doing. Since August 2018, the company has implemented a new window display concept across Europe and introduced a completely new visual imagery scheme aiming at younger target groups in particular.
The new store concept was presented in Amsterdam and Paris earlier this year and is due to be rolled out at other locations in the near future, starting with three stores in Asia.
Wolford said it’s also “creating new momentum with its collection.” As mentioned, in September, it will be launching ATH_W, its first sports-inspired athleisure collection, onto the market, which it said “has already met with a positive reception from specialist audiences.”
And it has also optimised its sales organisation “to enable sales activities to be managed by an extended sales team based in Milan.”
And that Chinese expansion? In the latest year, the company entered a new deal with FFBM (Fosun Fashion Brand Management) to spearhead its growth in China and with Chinese customers set to account for almost half of global luxury goods consumption within a few years, it has high hopes.
In the medium term though, the share of revenues Wolford generates in China should be comparable with that in its existing core markets of the US and Germany, which currently account for 20% and 15% of revenues respectively, it said.
Will this feed through into profits at some point? Yes, but not yet. The company is only expecting to generate positive operating earnings again in the 2020/21 financial year, it said on Tuesday.