March 30, 2020 / 1:50 PM / in 2 months

Spanish designer dresses last brides as coronavirus halts weddings

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Wearing a surgical mask and latex gloves, Spanish wedding dress designer Inma Garcia cuts lengths of ivory satin and frothy net in her Barcelona workshop to make a bridal gown for a Mexican client.

A pharmacy employee walks on an empty street of Ronda, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, southern Spain, March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

She is finishing the dress herself because her employees are in quarantine and her factory has been shut since March 16 after two workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

Spain, one of the countries worst-hit by the pandemic, is the second-biggest exporter of wedding dresses globally after China. A large proportion of the industry is centered in the Mediterranean city of Barcelona.

“We are trying to serve the brides who have not put off their weddings,” Garcia says, standing in a room with stacked bales of lace and sequin-embellished fabric. “We’ve come to make this dress to make sure the bride can happily get married.”

Garcia’s business has been hit on several fronts - weddings have been postponed, trade fairs where she makes most of her sales canceled and the supply chains for the fine Italian fabrics she uses have ground to a halt.

“All our fabric orders are on hold. It’s not just that we don’t have workers, we don’t have any raw material with which to work,” she says. No new dress orders are coming in.

The sudden freeze on her business is emblematic of the paralysis sweeping Spain’s economy, where small companies account for nearly three-quarters of the labor market.

The government, like many around the world, has announced a multi-billion-euro package of measures to help the economy weather the outbreak like offering state-backed loans to businesses and paying benefits to furloughed employees.

But small businesses across the country are grappling with an unprecedented scale of disruption.

The Valmont Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week is one of the biggest events in the wedding industry calendar, bringing hundreds of buyers and brands from around the world to buy and sell. But the April date has been postponed to June.

“That’s where we make most of our sales for the whole year,” says Garcia, standing next to a rack of plastic-wrapped white gowns, trimmed with diamante and lace.

“We are keeping our expectations low on whether it will take place in June because countries are totally shut down.”

Writing By Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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