Many of France's, and the world's, leading fashion brands are reconfiguring and repurposing their factories to make new protective face masks and other PPE to protect essential health workers against the Coronavirus.
Which fashion brands are making face masks?
In the scramble to provide sufficient protective wear for workers around France, and the rest of the world, companies that are usually better known for the haute couture, such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel are joining the collective effort to help increase supplies of essential clothing.
It is hoped that in making face masks for general use it will lessen demand of the N95 face masks so that they can be freed up to be given to health workers on the frontline.
Louis Vuitton, owned by LVMH, have reopened a number of workshops to produce medical gowns and face masks. At their Pont Neuf workshop twenty volunteers are making thousands of gowns for six hospitals around Paris, and at Sainte-Florence twenty two people are reportedly producing many thousands of face masks. 20-30% of the face masks will be kept for internal use and the rest will be donated to those in need.
“As an important French House, Louis Vuitton wishes to commit at its level to producing many thousands of masks that will be distributed within the region, at no charge, to protect those who are most exposed,” said Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton chairman and CEO, at the opening of the Sainte-Florence facility.
These nonsurgical masks have been approved by the different governing bodies for civilian use, in collaboration with Mode Grand Ouest, that is supplying one of the main materials. The gowns are approved by the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris.
It is doubtful if the masks and gowns will include the Louis Vuitton logo on them.
Another French fashion house has already made prototypes of face masks that were sent off to the French Authorities to be signed off before full production could begin. This was in response to French health minister Olivier Veran, mobilising the French fashion industry to aid in the fight against the virus spreading around the world. Chanel has also donated money to various Parisien hospital and health trusts including l'AP-HP.
Fashion brands all over the world have been joining the effort to help the effort. In the US large brands such as Gap, Ralph Lauren, and New Balance are sewing face masks and even smaller brands such as Eileen Fisher, Brandon Maxwell and Christian Siriano are joining in.
Ralph Lauren announced that The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation will commence producing 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolation gowns in the US.
"At the heart of our company, there has always been a spirit of togetherness that inspires our creativity, our confidence and most importantly our support for one another. In the past weeks and months, that spirit has never wavered," said Ralph Lauren, executive chairman of the fashion brand.
At the other end of the scale individual artisan makers such as those on Etsy.com are making cotton face masks for general use. Many of these will probably be more affordable than their 'designer' cousins.
Face mask wearing has never been as popular in the West as it has been in the Far East, where people out and about where masks more often. Perhaps this global pandemic will put face masks and protective gear more firmly in the minds of the world's more fashion conscious?