Dezeen Magazine

Andreu World makes masks as Spanish factories reopen during coronavirus pandemic

Spanish design brands "optimistic" as factories reopen after lockdown

Manufacturers in Spain are reopening their factories after two weeks in total lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus, with brands to promising to "bounce back".

Companies across Spain, including lighting brand Marset and furniture makers BD, have announced they are reopening their factories following the easing of lockdown restrictions in the country, which began on 14 March 2020.

Spain, which is experiencing one of the worst outbreaks of Covid-19, lifted restrictions to allow some industries to restart production to help ease the economic impact of the pandemic. A partial lockdown will remain in place until 26 April.

"A new world and a new spirit"

Marset, a lighting brand with a factory in Terrassa, has reopened at half production capacity after closing for three weeks.

"The brand and the company is actually as strong and positive thinking as ever, although everything has dramatically stopped," Marset CEO Javier Marset told Dezeen.

"We have not been able to present the new collections as we had expected but we will have to re-imagine new ways to bring our creativity to the design community," he added.

This week Dezeen launched a Virtual Design Festival to help brands launch their new collections digitally.

Demand is down as projects are postponed, but the CEO remains positive. "We hope that in few months a new world and a new spirit will flourish again," he said.

Lockdown "will almost have no impact on our customer's orders"

Barcelona-based furniture makers BD said the brand was "really happy" to be able to restart its factory after being closed for two weeks.

"We will bounce back from the lockdown pretty quickly since all our staff and suppliers are 100 per cent operative and the manufacturing shutdown has been only two weeks," said BD manager Jordi Arnau. "It will almost have no impact on our customers' orders."

However, many other countries in Europe and overseas remain in full lockdown and many borders are closed. In Italy, design brands have warned the government of an "economic catastrophe" if factories are not allowed to reopen soon.

"The main issue for us, and I guess for all the companies in this business, is the lockdown of the markets," Arnau told Dezeen. "We have many orders ready to ship that we can't deliver to the retailers because they are closed."

"The coronavirus is a humanitarian crisis but also economical, as we all know," Alejandra Gandia-Blasco, director of Valencia-based outdoor furniture manufacturer Gandia Blasco Group, told Dezeen.

"Most of our suppliers are closed or have cut its production so we can't develop our collections and new designs as quick as in normal conditions," said Gandia-Blasco, whose grandfather founded the company in 1941. "But we are optimistic with a special economic plan to overcome these days of confinement."

Spanish government aims to boost economy

Spain's government has implemented "a wide range of measures" to help businesses and individuals said head economic councillor at the Spanish Embassy in London Alvaro Nada, including grants, loans and tax breaks.

"Like other European countries, the strict limitations on mobility within the country has created a shortage of manpower, raw materials and components," Nada told Dezeen.

"On the demand side, the forced closure of companies and retail establishments as well as restrictions on the movement of people has caused a temporary decline in domestic consumption."

It is still too early to tell what the long term economic impact will be, said Nada, and much depends on how long the lockdown in Spain and other countries continues.

"We need less and less flags and borders"

Furniture manufacturer Viccarbe was only forced to close their factory for a total of two days before the Spanish government granted an exception for companies who export their goods and had contracts to honour abroad. Viccarbe exports 85 per cent of the designs it makes.

"Our Mediterranean character has always helped us to see the brightest side," Viccarbe's founder Víctor Carrasco told Dezeen.

"I believe that this has been a fortunate parentheses for taking a breath and reflecting, but overall to realise that we needed more than ever a unique voice which could coordinate us and avoid future problems," he added. "We need less and less flags and borders."

Employees volunteered to sew face masks 

Sancal, a Spanish brand that makes sofas and chairs in the south of Spain, closed their factory before the Spanish government insisted "as a precautionary measure" before reopening to help manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE).

"During the shutdown our sewing and cutting departments volunteered to return to make face masks following a request from the local authorities," Sancal's managing director Esther Castaño told Dezeen.

Spain, along with many countries, is struggling with a shortage of PPE for healthcare workers during the pandemic.

Furniture makers Andreu World has also turned their factories in Valencia and Navarra over to making face masks, becoming an official supplier. The upholstery departments have manufactured 12,000 masks from waterproof and hydro-repellent material for local heath centres and care homes.

Spanish company Nagami Design, which makes 3D-printed furniture normally, has turned its robotic arm to making face shields for medical workers.

Main photo courtesy of Andreu World.