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A Company where Inclusive Employment Is the Fashion

855 kilometers is roughly the distance from Paris to Berlin. It’s also the length of fabric ethical fashion brand Progetto Quid has given new life, while empowering disadvantaged groups through employment.

Of the Italian organization’s 146 employees, approximately 85% are women, including the founder, and 70% come from vulnerable backgrounds, including refugees, people who have experienced incarceration, survivors of violence, people in recovery from addiction, and others. An inclusive leadership initiative helps employees access opportunities across the organization, while another program supports employees with digital literacy aid, assistance with paperwork, and guidance to help ensure they are benefiting from social supports available to them. A recent grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) helped support Progetto Quid’s employee development programming.

Progetto Quid, established in 2013, is a project of Quid, a not-for-profit social enterprise based in Verona. In 2019, the brand moved 3.2 million items through sales to customers in its online shop, 9 dedicated stores, and in 73 other stores, as well as sales to other businesses like IKEA.

But with the arrival of COVID-19, Progetto Quid’s business model, like so many others, was upended. The fashion brand adapted quickly, turning toward this year’s de rigueur fashion accessory: the mask. Quid became one of six companies certified by the Italian National Institute of Health to produce personal protective equipment. In collaboration with a network of partner producers, they have so far fabricated 1,490,000 masks and are working on an order of six million for the Italian Civil Protection Department, helping sustain employment in hard-hit Northern Italy as the region begins to move toward recovery. Meanwhile, Quid’s Welfare Officer has helped ensure that employees, all of whom have been retained, are staying safe and accessing the supports made available by the government in the pandemic.

Progetto Quid exemplifies a type of social program that SNF has supported repeatedly, one which reaches into a region’s economic roots to create new opportunity and new life for people otherwise left out of opportunity. Here, Italy’s historic strength in the fashion industry and people from vulnerable backgrounds. In Greece, New Agriculture for a New Generation builds on the enduring strength of the country’s food-producing sector to create opportunity for the young people hit hard by years of economic crisis. And in the tiny Laconian village of Vamvakou, traditional village life is the heart of an effort to revitalize a community on the geographic and economic periphery.

“Fashion is, by definition, transitory and impermanent; it constantly changes,” remarked SNF Program Officer Charis Desinioti at an event last year. “But in the capable hands of Progetto Quid, it has been put into the service of timeless values, offering opportunities for vulnerable groups to advance, empowering women, reducing waste.”