Coronavirus relief: Fashion brands pledge to produce face masks for medical supply

Fashion brands both at home and abroad have pledged to produce face masks to help bolster medical stock shortages during the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent days, American designer Christian Siriano and European labels Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Gucci, among others, have announced they will start making face masks during the COVID-19 outbreak. Face masks and other personal protective equipment are in short supply for many health care workers around the world during the global outbreak of the viral disease.

Last week, a spokesperson for Siriano confirmed that members of the designer’s sewing team had started making face masks after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced there soon may not be enough to outfit health care workers, BuzzFeed News reports.

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"Christian has a staff of sewers on salary sitting at home and ready to work," a publicist for the designer told the outlet. "They’re starting to make them now, which we will donate and then a plan will be put together as we flesh it out to manufacture them/more."

“Prototypes are happening more updates by next week,” Siriano tweeted on Friday, sharing an image of sample face masks.

Other American fashion brands have also joined the crusade to help replenish the dire shortages for those on the front lines, according to The New York Times. Retailer Los Angeles Apparel has started making surgical masks and hospital gowns, while swimwear company Karla Colletto said it planned to help produce personal protective equipment.

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Of the three companies, none will be making N95 respirator masks, the Times reports. Siriano and Los Angeles Apparel are said to be designing “washable, reusable masks” which are not technically “medical grade,” but Siriano plans for his masks to ultimately meet Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards.

Overseas, luxury labels Saint Laurent and Balenciaga will start manufacturing face masks as soon as formal approval is granted, French parent company Kering said on Sunday, per Reuters. Kering also promised to distribute three million surgical masks to French health authorities after buying and importing them from China.

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In Italy, Gucci, another design house owned by Kering, is preparing to produce and donate over one million masks and 55,000 pairs of medical overalls to health officials there.

Competitor LVMH, which owns luxury fashion brands including Louis Vuitton, Dior, Fendi and Givenchy, said last week that they were working to order and distribute 40 million face masks for France, according to the outlet. Luxury group LVMH is also using some of its perfume factories to produce much-needed hand sanitizer.

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