At a press conference on Friday, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo described the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) products for healthcare workers — including N95 masks, protective gloves, and more — and asked businesses “to get creative.” Now, the fashion industry is stepping up to the plate to sew masks and gowns for hospitals across the country.
At the moment, N95 face masks, or face masks regulated by the CDC that protect wearers against airborne illnesses, are among the most sought-after items on the market. Meanwhile, people not necessarily on the front lines have been stealing them for personal gain, and while we understand wanting to go the extra mile to stay safe, it’s important to remember that the people who need those masks the most are doctors and nurses, who don’t have the luxury of working from home right now. In other words, leave the CDC-grade face masks for the professionals.
Following Governor Cuomo’s call to action, New York-based designer Christian Siriano sent a tweet to the governor stating that his ten seamstresses (all of whom are working from home) could immediately stop what they were doing to sew masks for those in need. According to The New York Times, he hopes that his team can produce a few thousand masks a week.
In the days since the designer’s tweet, the thread has flooded with responses from other designers offering up their sewing capabilities for the cause. Fashion designers like Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss, Rachel Comey, Dov Charney of Los Angeles Apparel (formerly the founder and CEO of American Apparel), and more have also presented their factories and sewing teams to help.
Los Angeles Apparel has donated its 150,000-square-foot factory to production of surgical masks and hospital gowns. Charney believes they can produce around 300,000 masks and 50,000 gowns per week for the foreseeable future.
On Thursday, Jean-Raymond took to Instagram to announce that his Manhattan offices would be immediately transformed into a donation centre for N95 masks, gloves, and other medical supplies. “My sister was exposed to COVID-19 and her elder patients’ safety has been compromised due to some professionals having to wear makeshift masks,” his post reads. “One of the more alarming messages from a friend who is a doctor in Philadelphia stated that she and her colleagues have been using bleach to re-wash their masks.”
Unfortunately, many of the masks that have been created this weekend following Cuomo’s announcement aren’t CDC-approved. And while they are great for civilians looking to protect themselves during a trip to the pharmacy, they cannot be used for hospital employees who are being confronted with cases of COVID-19 all day, everyday. They need N95 masks — and a lot of them.
Rachel Comey posted a message yesterday stating that medical gowns, rather than face masks, are what hospitals need right now. In the post, the designer shared two email addresses that manufacturers could reach out to if they had the capability to produce such gowns. The contacts she included are COVID19supplies@esd.ny.gov and email@example.com. Comey also shared a tutorial for how to make face masks for personal use, stating explicitly that homemade masks weren’t designed for hospital use.
Handbag designer Gelareh Mizrahi has also temporarily paused regular production to focus on the cause at hand, but she’s not doing so behind a sewing machine. Instead, the designer, whose brother is a doctor at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Hospital, is raising money via a GoFundMe in order to get CDC-approved PPE products to hospitals nationwide using a reputable supplier that she found in China. The factory currently has 2,000,000 pieces of protective gear in stock. According to her Instagram, all of the products manufactured at this factory have been approved by the CDC.
By donating to Mizrahi’s GoFundMe, you’re helping to get medical-grade face masks, eye goggles, gloves, glasses, and visors to hospitals in the U.S. within seven days. Her first order of $3,500 is currently being sent to Dr. Thaïs Aliabadi at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn. Once the order has been inspected for quality, she plans on making a larger bulk order with the money she’s raised on GoFundMe. According to Mizrahi, every $10 secures one set of protective gear, which includes an N95 mask, a face shield, goggles, and gloves.
The CFDA is also mobilising. On its website, you’ll find a number of different reputable resources, including a form for the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) that any company capable of manufacturing CDC-grade PPE products must fill out, as well as one for Los Angeles-based companies.
Even with so many designers already offering their resources to the cause, there is still a lot of work to be done.