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La Perla Seamstresses Hold Demonstration at European Parliament

MILAN — La Perla’s seamstresses took it into their own hands to voice their concerns directly to the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday.

The employees of the troubled Italian innerwear company were in the Belgian capital “to tell their story” to an Italian delegation of members of the Parliament asking them to “draw up legislations with norms that will no longer allow financial and economic speculation such as the one they are going through,” said Ugo Cherubini, national secretary of Italian union Filctem Cgil.

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He continued by stating that La Perla’s challenges prove that “in the absence of serious industrial policies in Italy, the risk is to run into speculators that plunder the economic and production network of our country and then run away with [the spoils].”

Cherubini said there was “no more time to lose.” He underscored that La Perla’s skilled artisans are internationally recognized for their professional expertise, with orders to fulfill and that the brand is a symbol of Made in Italy production, halted however by “unscrupulous financial speculators. This should not be allowed, because the price will not be paid only by La Perla’s expert seamstresses, but by all that is good in our country that risks the same fate. We must defend our industry if we want to defend our companies and our Made in Italy in the world.”

The demonstration in Brussels is only the latest of pickets and steps taken over the past few years as La Perla faced its financial problems. Unions Cgil, Filctem Cgil, Uil and Uiltec have been vocal about La Perla’s issues on several fronts, in the courthouse of Bologna, where it has been historically based, and urging the Ministry of the Enterprises and Made in Italy to take a stand to avoid the liquidation of the company, which “should be managed by entrepreneurs who care about the relaunch of this storied brand. […] We refute the idea that the only priorities of English liquidators are the London revenue authorities’ claimed credits.”

The unions have lamented that German businessman Lars Windhorst, the company’s owner via his London-based private equity firm Tennor, has not been providing an industrial plan to relaunch the brand.

La Perla employs around 330 workers in Italy, 230 of which are based at its Bologna manufacturing site and, as reported, have not been paid on a regular basis, according to the unions.

The troubled innerwear brand has failed to steadily relaunch in recent years, after Windhorst’s private equity firm Tennor, then known as Sapinda, took over the company in 2018. La Perla remains heavily indebted as it logged pre-tax losses of 48.8 million euros on sales of 69.1 million euros in 2022, according to the company’s annual report.

The 60 million to 70 million-euro financing to relaunch the brand which the German businessman had pledged to put in place never materialized.

Over the past few years, the lingerie label has been searching for new revenue streams and has expanded into beauty and swimwear. It became one of the first brands to join Amazon Luxury Stores. The company also invested $50 million in the now-shuttered British couture house Ralph & Russo.

As reported, La Perla’s troubled business trickled down to its U.K. operations as last July it resolved winding-up petitions filed by a pool of its British creditors. In particular Purple PR; the accountancy firm Mazars; the design agency Edge Retail, and the consultancy firm HSO Enterprise Solutions all served winding-up notices to the company. Petitions have since been withdrawn after La Perla paid its debts, except for the latter, as the company still owes HSO Enterprise Solutions more than 701,129 pounds.

La Perla was founded in 1956 by the corsetry maker Ada Masotti. Her son, Alberto Masotti, headed the business until it was sold to private equity player JH Partners in 2007. Ownership of La Perla later passed to Silvio Scaglia in 2013, who sold it to Sapinda in 2018.

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