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From Reformation to Uniqlo, Here’s How Fashion’s Fighting COVID-19

Leaders across the fashion supply chain are chipping into the movement to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Sustainable stalwart Reformation and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti may seem like unlikely bedfellows, but the fashion brand has teamed with the politician’s office on a new project to help workers on the front lines of COVID-19 exposure.

On Friday, Mayor Garcetti announced the formation of LA Protects, a new initiative to mobilize the city’s garment industry in the manufacturing of protective gear and medical supplies.

Reformation has stepped up to monitor the production of five million non-medical masks for workers providing essential services through the crisis. The effort will ensure the city’s short supply of medical-grade N95 masks can be reserved for health-care workers treating patients in hospitals.

LA Protects also seeks to help the city’s embattled fashion businesses, which have all but shuttered operations in compliance with virus containment measures. The program will engage manufacturers and brands that might otherwise have had to furlough their employees for the foreseeable future.

Approved manufacturers will be tasked with providing masks for non-medical workers in the healthcare industry, along with grocers, staff at take-out restaurants and delivery services, and employees at food and beverage manufacturers.

“Reformation has been deputized to recruit and organize other L.A. garment and apparel manufacturers to supply materials and support manufacturing protective equipment at scale,” the company said in an e-mailed statement to Sourcing Journal. “We are responsible for leveraging our expertise in garment and apparel production to provide quality assurance checks and build out funding and in-kind support for this initiative.”

Reformation added that its in-house teams would be manufacturing masks at the company’s L.A.-based sewing factory with fabrics from its warehouse.

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“It’s important that we take care of each other during this pandemic,” Yael Aflalo, founder and CEO of Reformation, said in a joint statement with the Mayor’s office on Friday.

“Part of this is ensuring that the brave workers who are the backbone of our Los Angeles community, and keep our essential needs met, have access to the necessary tools to protect themselves and others,” she added.

LA Protects also partnered with healthcare company Kaiser Permanente in devising the specifications for the non-medical masks, which will be available for public purchase.

Businesses that participate in the creation of the products will be subject to stringent quality assurance standards and strict protocols to protect employees, like placing workstations at least six feet apart and regularly disinfecting high-use areas.

In recent days, brands across the country and the world have announced similar efforts to help provide for public health while re-engaging their supply chains.

On Friday, L.A.-based Sanctuary clothing committed to developing five million N95 medical-grade masks for healthcare workers treating patients in hospitals across the U.S. The brand’s CEO and co-founder, Ken Polanco, began engaging the company’s workforce last week, and the first batch of masks will be donated this week to local L.A. hospitals.

The clothing maker has pledged to support the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), along with state authorities in Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas. More partnerships are “on the horizon,” Sanctuary said, adding that local authorities will be tasked with distributing the masks to all organizations in need.

The company is also crafting a non-medical consumer option, dubbed the Essential Lifestyle mask. Sets of five disposable masks are now available for pre-order on its e-commerce site, and are expected to ship by April 15. Sanctuary is also currently developing reusable masks that can be laundered and worn again.

Masks by Sanctuary will be available for consumers to purchase in early April.
Masks by Sanctuary will be available for consumers to purchase in early April. Sanctuary

Uniqlo parent company Fast Retailing has pledged to manufacture and donate 10 million medical-grade masks to hospitals and other medical organizations across the globe, beginning in late March.

The company has engaged its China-based supply chain to create the products, which will be distributed throughout the markets where Fast Retailing operates. More than one million masks will be delivered to U.S. medical facilities alone in early April, the company said, to be disseminated by the New York State government.

In late March, Fast Retailing will deliver one million masks to the Milan City Government, while an equal number will be sent to Japan for use in medical institutions and nursing facilities.

French chemicals and material manufacturer Chargeurs said it’s engaging its supply chain in the production of hydro-alcoholic solutions for healthcare professionals and mission-critical sectors, along with protective masks in industrial quantities.

The company aims to ramp up production to its fullest capacity within the next two weeks, and hopes to produce one million masks each week.

“All of Chargeurs’ talents are proud and do not count their hours and efforts day and night in support of national health needs,” Michaël Fribourg, the company’s chairman and CEO said in a statement.

Chargeurs’ director of industrial and performance and logistics Philippe Denoix confirmed the company would be stepping up its capabilities in the coming days by “mobilizing our research, our world-class engineering and our expertise in international logistics.”

The masks and sanitizing gels will be distributed throughout areas in France facing shortages, along with several other yet-to-be-named regions experiencing similar challenges.