Fashion designers are now producing face masks and other medical supplies to help fight the coronavirus pandemic
26th March 2020
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  • Healthcare workers across the world are running low on gowns, masks, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to fight the coronavirus.
  • Fashion designers are stepping up by transitioning to producing necessary medical supplies. 
  • Christian Siriano was one of the first designers to respond to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's call asking for companies that are able to create masks to get in touch with his office. 
  • Since then, Brandon Maxwell, Prabal Gurung, Rachel Comey, and more have agreed to join the effort.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Across the world, healthcare workers are running low on the personal protective equipment needed to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. 

On Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press briefing asking for businesses in New York to help manufacture more medical supplies needed to confront COVID-19. 

"If you can make them, we will give you the funding to do it," he said. "I'm asking businesses to get creative."

In the briefing, Cuomo mentioned the items needed for healthcare workers included gloves, gowns, and masks.

Christian Siriano was one of the first to respond to Cuomo's request for help

Siriano's team is sewing masks for New York state.
John Lamparski/Getty Images

"If @NYGovCuomo says we need masks my team will help make some. I have a full sewing team still on staff working from home that can help," he tweeted. 

Since getting in touch with Cuomo's team, Siriano and his seamstresses have started making hundreds of masks a day, according to his Instagram. 

"Powerful women right here! This is what Fashion is right now for us. Making hundreds of masks a day and that's what we can do to help. Thank you to my team for this and thank you to our friends who donated to help!" he captioned a photo of his team producing the masks.

The masks currently being produced by Siriano's team are meant for hospital workers who are not directly treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19, as they are not the N95 masks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, N95 masks are able to filter out at least 95% of particles in the air. Homemade masks, on the other hand, should be used as a last resort, or will ideally be paired with a face shield that covers the entire front and sides of the face. 

"Our sewers are sitting at home. They want to do something. They want to help," Siriano told Business of Fashion. "We make insane, crazy things. This is a very easy thing for us to make."

Brandon Maxwell has also joined the effort, and his team tried to make gowns before transitioning to masks

Maxwell's team is making masks in NYC.
Dominik Bindl/Getty Images

On Saturday, Maxwell shared a statement on Instagram detailing how his team planned to help amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

"We have spent the last week researching the appropriate medical textiles to create these gowns and are proud to provide these much-needed items to the doctors and nurses on the front lines of this crisis," his statement read. 

On Sunday, Maxwell tweeted an update that his team had transitioned to making mask covers.

"As you may know, last week our studio began transitioning in to producing PPE starting with gowns. We will transition in to masks and gloves as more information becomes available. For the time being we are producing mask covers," he wrote. "We have been overwhelmed by the response and need from the medical community, as well as our fellow design peers looking to get involved."

Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss has also offered to help

Kerby Jean-Raymond set up a donation center.
David Livingston/Getty Images

Jean-Raymond said he would be turning the brand's office into a donation center for N95 masks and latex gloves, as well as donating $5,000 to buy the same supplies.

Since then, Jean-Raymond updated his followers that the donation grew to $10,000 thanks to lawyers matching his original pledge. The designer has also created a $100,000 fund to help minority and women-owned small creative businesses who are being impacted by the pandemic. 

On Monday, Prabal Gurung announced that his brand is pivoting to making personal protective equipment

Gurung announced his team would be making PPE on Monday.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Gurung shared a statement on Instagram that his team is working in partnership with Cuomo's office and local hospitals to ensure they are producing everything correctly. 

"The PG team has been working tirelessly over the course of the last week to finalize an actionable plan to manufacture PPE for medical workers and first responders who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis," he wrote. "As a brand that produces over 90% of our collections in NY, our goal is not only to fill the void of critical PPE, but to mobilize our domestic partners, revitalizing US producers and suppliers."

"While we are eager to share our progress with you all, the Coronavirus crisis is ever evolving, and as new information is revealed, so are new FDA and state regulations. In this moment, credible and validated information is of the utmost importance for the advancement of all COVID-19 relief effort," the designer continued. 

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The PG team has been working tirelessly over the course of the last week to finalize an actionable plan to manufacture PPE for medical workers and first responders who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. As a brand that produces over 90% of our collections in NY, our goal is not only to fill the void of critical PPE, but to mobilize our domestic partners, revitalizing US producers and suppliers. While we are eager to share our progress with you all, the Coronavirus crisis is ever evolving, and as new information is revealed, so are new FDA and state regulations. In this moment, credible and validated information is of the utmost importance for the advancement of all COVID-19 relief efforts. We are currently working in partnership with @nygovcuomo office & local hospitals to secure clearance to produce, and ensure the viability of our output. More updates to follow!

A post shared by Prabal Gurung (@prabalgurung) on

LA-based designer Michael Costello announced he was working with a local manufacturer to produce masks

Costello and his team are working on making masks.
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Costello shared a statement on Instagram on Sunday that he would also be making protective face masks.

"CA is my home and I'm determined to do all I can to not only prevent the spread of COVID-19 but also keep everyone safe. All I ask for is your support … I'm not asking for fame, notoriety, likes, views, or anything else. Thank you! I want to also let every hospital, nurse, caregiver, and first responders know I am taking this very seriously and not just binge-watching my favorite Netflix shows," he wrote. 

Since then, Costello posted a video of him at a sewing machine making prototypes of non-medical-grade masks. In the caption, he explained that he has been in contact with someone in Los Angeles who can and will produce medical-grade masks. 

"We will not be selling any of these but rather giving them away to all first responders, hospitals, and healthcare providers," he wrote in the caption. 

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Focused. I have been here for the past 24 hours, glued to my machine in hopes of making prototypes of face masks. These are (Non-surgical grade masks) . Let’s help prevent the spread of covid-19. I have been in contact with someone in Los Angeles who can and will produce surgical grade masks that help prevent catching the covid-19 virus as well on Monday i will find out where we stand with those type of mask . We will not be selling any of these but rather giving them away to all first responders, hospitals, and healthcare providers. @mayorofla @cdcgov @nygovcuomo @cfda @bof @karlapfrancog again the ones i am making have a 70-74% success rate . And are non surgical cotton blend

A post shared by M I C H A E L C O S T E L L O (@michaelcostello) on

Just like fashion designers, brands are also answering the call for much-needed supplies

Over the weekend, Lafayette 148 New York's patternmakers created patterns for surgical gowns that will be digitized and sent off for prototyping. The company is partnering with the Economic Development Corporation and the Brooklyn Navy Yard to help hospitals in the New York area. 

On Tuesday, Gap Inc. shared a statement on Twitter that the company is going to "pivot resources so factory partners can make masks, gowns, and scrubs for healthcare workers on the front lines." The company is working with hospitals in California. 

Prada's co-CEOs, Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli, along with chairman Carlo Mazzi, donated six intensive care units to help fight the coronavirus spread in Italy. According to WWD, Prada has also committed to making 110,000 surgical masks and 80,000 medical overalls by April 6, upon a request received by the Tuscany region.

Kering — the parent company of Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, and Gucci — announced on Sunday that it will provide the French health service with 3 million surgical masks that the group is purchasing and importing from China. 

After Kering's announcement, LVMH — the group that owns brands like Bulgari, Tiffany & Co., Celine, Louis Vuitton, and Fenty — said it was ordering 40 million masks from a Chinese supplier, according to The New York Times.

Representatives for Siriano, Maxwell, Jean-Raymond, Gurung, Costello, Prada, Kering, LVMH did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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