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As Global Virus Cases Soar Past 3 Million, New Efforts Rush Masks Into Action

As personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to remain in scarce supply where it’s urgently needed, stakeholders across apparel and textiles are stepping forward to fill in the gaps.

Hygiene Austria

Lenzing AG and Palmers Textil AG have created Hygiene Austria and will start producing and selling protective face masks for the domestic and European markets starting next month in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lenzing owns 50.1 percent of the new company and Palmers Textil AG holds 49.9 percent. Over the past few weeks, Lenzing and Palmers Textil have invested several million euros in a modern production infrastructure at a facility in Wiener Neudorf, Austria, and secured the raw materials for protective masks production.

In an initial step, the company is producing mouth-nose protective masks (MNS) and surgical protective masks of class EN14683. Hygiene Austria plans to increase its capacities to more than 25 million masks per month over the next few weeks and to expand this business geographically, as well.

The demand for high-quality MNS and respiratory masks for medical personnel is increasing rapidly, the companies noted, and there is strong competition on the international market for these products. In order to sustainably secure domestic supply now and in the future, and to strengthen the business, Lenzing and Palmers Textil said the new company will make a significant contribution to combating the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring the long-term supply of these critical goods in Austria.

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“We decided to pool our knowledge, network and experience in a competence center for hygiene together with our partner Palmers,” Stefan Doboczky, CEO of Lenzing, said. “The aim of this joint venture is to provide the citizens of Austria and Europe with the best possible protection through locally manufactured, high-quality products.”

Luca Wieser, member of the board of Palmers, said Palmers Textil and Lenzing complement each other perfectly, with both companies have many years of experience in the manufacture and distribution of textile products. Lenzing brings its technological experience in the hygiene sector, the know-how regarding procurement and raw material and knowledge in the field of plant engineering.

“Masks will continue to play an important role in our daily lives and we are proud that we were able to achieve our goal of an industrial production so quickly together with our partner, Palmers,” Doboczky added.

Only Leggings

The growing opinion that face masks will be a part of consumer wardrobes for the foreseeable future has compelled OnlyLeggings.com to expand its face mask product line.

The offering now included 30 new graphic print fashion face masks, men’s and women’s cut-cotton masks, Made in the USA premium unisex cotton face masks, surgical masks, children’s face masks, N95 and KN95 medical masks, and sport neoprene carbon-activated PM2.5 masks, as well as hand sanitizer and more.

Only Leggings expects to continue to grow its face mask category, which it describes as the “new and hottest fashion accessory” category. Various fabrics are being developed and used that include cotton, scuba, French terry, rayon, and neoprene in a two-ply rear pocket design for the insertion of PM 2.5 filters. Only Leggings intends to make its face mask category a permanent feature on its website and is applying resources to take the category in new directions.

Only Leggings will also keep in stock a large supply of replaceable face mask filters such as the PM 2.5 filters and performance carbon activated varieties. Other masks that will be included in Only Leggings’ selection will be masks for allergies and pollution-conscious individuals, and face mask and legging sets that come in matching fabric designs.

RetailersUnited

RetailersUnited, a pan-industry working group, is coming together to create a centralized platform to source and distribute PPE to those on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

Driven by Coresight Research, Gerber Technology and Li & Fung, as well as MMG Advisors, with advisers from the healthcare industry, the new group aims to connect manufacturers, retailers, consumers, healthcare organizations and others looking to donate in areas such as services, materials, goods, time or funds.

Not only does the platform, which will run based on user-generated content and trusted relationships, seek to solve logistical problems by connecting supply to demand in new channels, but it also deals with issues at the source by connecting manufacturers with information on what they need to make and how to make it, so that non-PPE manufacturers can pivot to today’s most urgent necessities. Plus, the not-for-profit organization also strives to save jobs by “re-orienting manufacturing and supply chains toward essential needs, helping keep them in business, as well as by helping retailers run their businesses safely in the age of COVID-19,” the group said.

“For those on the front lines, whether in healthcare, delivery or retail, every day they risk their lives, as if in wartime combat,” said Coresight Research CEO Deborah Weinswig. “These people need to be properly protected. So, it’s incumbent on those of us who have the skills, connections and platforms to put together solutions like this. We’ve brought together some of the world’s best minds and problem-solvers for a coordinated response that will help protect our frontline providers and workers across the country.”

RetailersUnited will include external links to a Facebook group, Bashi.co, Philos health for donations, a resource” page and a link to LinkedIn, and will incorporate a way to accept online payment.

“At Bashi, we felt deeply that we needed to help in any way possible to combat this global pandemic,” Kyle Markley, CEO and founder of Bashi, a startup within the Fung Group, said. “In early March, we launched a design campaign for woven masks, but as COVID-19 continued to impact everyone’s lives, we knew we needed to do more. With the launch of RetailersUnited, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to utilize our technology to make the biggest impact possible and Bashi COVID Care was born, with the goal of matching supply and demand for PPE and related products and services.”

Others involved in project include Fashwire, which is donating a dollar for every download of its app, and Cohn Reznick, MSQ Ventures, Xcel Brands, CGS, Global Brands Group, Fung Academy and Soles4Souls.