What is FURLA?
For those who are unfamiliar with high fashion of Italian origin, the name ‘Furla’ may not ring a bell. And NO, the brand Furla does not specialize in fur, contrary to what its name may suggest. The brand’s material of choice is in fact leather, and internationally, Furla is acclaimed for its production of leather luxury goods that are always of supreme quality. In 1927, Aldo and Margherita Furlanetto, a married couple native to Bologna, established their company Furla in the heart of their hometown in hopes of providing Italian people with fashionable and long-lasting accessories such as purses and wallets. After almost forty years running the company together, the Furlanetto parents passed it down to their children named Giovanna, Paolo and Carlo Furlanetto in the 1970s. It was during this same decade that
Furla has several store locations in Europe, with its headquarters in Bologna, Italy serving as its most famous location. In the United States, however, Furla’s loyal customers are limited to shopping at its eleven U.S. locations, primarily located in California, Florida and throughout the Northeast. Furla’s most popular and lucrative U.S. location is located on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, New York, one of the city’s high fashion shopping hubs.
These are the facts that Furla leaves accessible to the public. The company’s origin story is interesting, and its success at both its home base in Italy and in the international market speak to the consistently good quality that the company provides its loyal customers. Nonetheless, we as researchers wanted to know more! How does Furla maintain its connection to those who support the brand? How does Furla encourage other young people who want to pursue their dreams of being creators and designers? We, along with Elena Giulia, contacted Furla executives and employees in hopes of getting answers to some of these questions, but to no avail. Is Furla as transparent as they present, or is it a guise?
FURLA Foundation: For Real or Faux?
What makes Furla distinct from comparative brands is its efforts to cultivate creativity in Italian youth. The Furla Foundation, which was founded in 2008 by Giovanna Furlanetto, was her attempt to “encourage[e] and promot[e] contemporary culture in Italy, foster young creative talent, and build a platform of dialogue about the themes of our era,” according to their website. In 2000, Furlanetto and her team launched the Furla Art Award, which has been awarded to a plethora of young contemporary artists since its creation. These artists include Joseph Kosuth, Ilya Kabakov and Lothar Baumgarten to name a few (http://www.fondazionefurla.org/fondazione/).
In 2017 the Furla Foundation partnered with Bruna Roccasalva and Vincenzo de Bellis, the founders of a Milan-based art center named Peep-Hole, in hopes of fostering artistry creativity on an institutional level as well as accumulating and distributing art supplies and resources to those who need it. Furla Foundation launched its Furla Series at Peep-Hole, exhibiting various visual art pieces from Italy’s most notable independent artists. The Furla Series also hosts local events that allow artists to appreciate the work of their peers and network with other artists in the community (http://www.fondazionefurla.org/furla-series/).
All of the information above can be found on the Furla Foundation website in the ‘About’ and ‘Furla Foundation’ sections. The organization’s description is shallow and vague, however, and it left us with several pending questions.
The Furla Foundation website states that its mission is to “give continuity to the projects it launches in the cultural field while allowing them to develop even at the international level.” We assume that the foundation is familiar to and acclaimed by local Italian artists and citizen. International customers, however, are less likely to know Furla Foundation itself, let alone its art series. How has Furla and its community outreach foundation worked towards expanding its impact to an international audience? Has the Furla Foundation ever worked with young creatives in countries such as the United States? Although we reached out to Furla with these questions, we received no response.
Another inquiry we had after researching the company’s foundation is related to the content that the Furla Foundation displays. Is the Furla Series limited to paintings and sculptures, or are there any other forms of visual art that are exhibited in the series? We presented this question to Furla as well, but we received no response.
We wanted to learn more about the Furla Art Award and the criteria for its win. Despite the simplicity of this inquiry, Furla did not respond to us.
We asked Furla what kind of work their employees are doing now that COVID-19 restrictions are in place all over the world. We received no response.
Finally, we asked Furla if they planned to partner with any other foundation dedicated to community outreach and creativity. We did not receive an answer to this question.
Along with their brief and generalized company and foundation description, Furla’s failure to communicate with us about their community outreach leaves us to question the validity of their services to their local community. Are they continuously working with artistic youth in Milan and Bologna, and how recently has the Foundation’s description on its website been updated? Is the Furla Foundation active, or is it a façade?
Compared to a fashion foundation like that of Prada, which recently held a Culture and Consciousness conference and kicked off a three-year project researching neuroscience (https://wwd.com/fashion-news/fashion-scoops/fondazione-prada-kicks-off-three-year-project-neuroscience-1234642194/), the Furla Foundation seems to act on a small scale. To be fair, Prada is a much bigger, more famous brand than Furla, and its international traction allows the company to host such large and impactful events. Furla, however, could be more specific about its projects, its future goals and its target audience, especially considering the foundation’s desire to impact the world internationally.
Furla and Finance: (Un)Fabulous Fusion?
Furla proved to be unresponsive to us outsiders, but the company may have a good excuse for the exclusive behavior. On November 9, 2020, the U.S. based subsidiary on 5th Avenue in Manhattan filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows the company to rearrange their affairs and their finances. The bankruptcy was brought about by COVID-19 store closings that began in March 2020. Prior to these closings, in-store traffic had already decreased, so the halt that COVID-19 caused was simply the bad icing on the cake (https://ww.fashionnetwork.com/news/Furla-usa-pushed-to-bankruptcy-by-covid-19-closures,1258644.html).
Furla does not plan to close its U.S. locations, but the company plans to adapt to U.S. consumers’ shopping habits, as in-store shopping is becoming less popular with American customers.
With the company’s current bankruptcy in the United States, along with the strains that COVID-19 has put on all in-person activities, Furla is not to be completely blamed for its inaccessibility. After the pandemic’s end, we hope that the company will be able to regain its security in the American market and continue its community outreach in Italy. If all goes well, Furla will one day be able to share their artistic outreach with the rest of the world.
Furla and Brand Transparency
COVID-19 has halted the normal way that our society has functioned for the past several years. For the first time since the creation of the internet, customers are encouraged to shop online rather than in-store. Customers are disheartened by the abrupt change in shopping, as sifting through racks of clothing and shoes seem to be an activity of the recent past. The fashion industry has also experienced a blow from this pandemic. Brands like Furla depend on in-store shopping to maintain the brand’s notoriety and funds. With this change comes the fear of store closings and fewer customers.
While Furla has been affected significantly by COVID-19, their failure to gain or maintain connection with its customers remains inexcusable. Transparency about all aspects of the brand is imperative to gaining new customers and keeping the ones that the company already has. We hope that both the Furla brand and its foundation will continue to thrive throughout the pandemic and long after.