Designers hoping to join the coronavirus fight say that the process is riddled with hurdles and a lack of clarity. But federal guidance won’t fix a fragile American fashion ecosystem.
New York womenswear designer Christian Siriano tweeted that, if Cuomo needed masks, his sewing team was willing to help. “We need companies to be creative to supply the crucial gear our healthcare workers need,” Cuomo tweeted a few minutes later. “NY will pay a premium and offer funding.” The idea seemed to hold promise on two levels: This would be a way for designers to help stop the spread of coronavirus—and to keep themselves afloat by doing so.
At a moment when hospitals around the country are facing a shortfall of both N95 and surgical masks, New York has been particularly hard hit.
But even in the effort to make last-resort masks, designers are working alone, relying on their own research and the advice of friends and medical experts within their own networks. If the fashion industry and New York City’s Garment District are to make a meaningful impact on the shortage and keep their lights on in the process, designers and manufacturers say, some sort of organizational oversight is necessary.
Louis Vuitton masks, likewise, have been seen online on a range of famous people, most of them Instagram influencers. The brand has also produced natty red masks in partnership with streetwear brand Supreme.
A Gucci mask was spotted on singer-songwriter Billie Eilish at the Grammy Awards in January,
although the only publicly available option seems to be the so-called balaclava mask, which covers most of the face – but not the mouth.
Fendi sells a fairly rudimentary anti-pollution mask, albeit one with the iconic FF logo plastered all over it. Bally joined hands with rapper Swizz Beatz and aerosol X-ray artist Shok-1 for an eclectic collaboration on the face mask.
Italian technical outerwear company Nemen’s masks, which come in green, in an appealing soft fabric, were also produced in partnership with Airinum, and were also unveiled last year.
American menswear designer Palm Angels sells a basic anti-pollution mask in a comfy stretch material, with just the brand name on the front.
Italian designer Marcelo Burlon County of Milan produces the Cruz mask, featuring either the brand’s cross logo or its dramatic spreading wings motif; as well as the rather more serious looking Catedral air filtration mask.
Major fashion brands are stepping in to help gather or make these much-needed supplies. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton announced Saturday that it would obtain 40 million medical-grade face masks from a Chinese industrial supplier to distribute to French health authorities. Italian brand Prada shared Monday that it’s producing a run of 80,000 overalls and 110,000 face masks at one of its factories for Italian medical personnel.
French luxury conglomerate Kering will produce face masks in the workshops of its brands Balenciaga, Gucci and Saint Laurent. Also in Europe, the Stockholm-based H&M Group announced that it would make masks and other necessary equipment, while Inditex, parent company of Spanish fast-fashion brand Zara, said it would produce hospital gowns and masks.
Back in the U.S., American fashion and textile brands are joining the efforts to help combat the coronavirus.