Dozens of employees at Italian fashion house Gucci staged a strike on Monday to protest the company’s decision to move its design office from Rome to Milan.
Although a Gucci spokesperson told CNN the proposed relocation “does not involve any staff reductions,” a regional branch of labor union CGIL described the move as “disguised collective redundancy.”
Writing on its website last week, the union said the move “conceals the desire to soon cease all activity in Rome.” A later post was accompanied by photos from Monday’s demonstration in Rome, where protesters held placards with messages including “Gucci cuts but doesn’t sew.”
The decision, which the company said it communicated to unions in October, affects 153 of the design office’s 219 Rome-based employees. CGIL has argued that asking staff to move to Milan, approximately 300 miles north of the capital, in the first half of 2024 was tantamount to laying them off.
Gucci’s spokesperson said that the relocation means its creative director and designers will “have the opportunity to collaborate closely with the strategic functions of the company” already based in Milan, “maximizing the necessary interactions and synergies.”
The statement added that the brand is offering “economic incentives and active support …more favorable than those stipulated in the Italian national collective agreement.”
Following the departure of creative director Alessandro Michele in 2022, Gucci owner Kering shook up the label’s top management. The company appointed former Valentino designer Sabato De Sarno as its new creative director in January this year, while in August, Kering announced that CEO Marco Bizzarri was leaving the company, putting Jean-François Palus, who previously served as Kering’s managing director, in the top job.
Kering, which also owns Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga, said at the time Palus was “tasked with strengthening Gucci’s teams and operations” to rebuild the Italian brand’s “influence and momentum.”
Gucci is Kering’s largest brand, accounting for just over half of the French conglomerate’s $22 billion revenue last year.
While sales of luxury goods were on a tear earlier in the year, the market cooled in the second half of 2023. Following three years of bumper profits fueled by pent-up consumer demand post pandemic, Kering reported a larger-than-expected 9% drop in sales last quarter, underperforming its rivals amid a slowing appetite for high-end clothing and accessories.
With De Sarno at the helm, Gucci unveiled a new collection dubbed “Gucci Ancora” (an Italian word that means both “still” and “again”) in September to a star-studded crowd in Milan including Julia Roberts, Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, Kendall Jenner and Julia Garner.
The designer gave the old Gucci codes a refresh sending babydoll dresses, tailored short suits, fringed skirts, hoodies and bejeweled knitwear down the runway.
For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com