The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has created a massive shortage in personal protective equipment (PPE). We have discussed on this site the effect that the crisis is having on the fashion industry as well as how the industry is reacting to the pandemic. Now we are seeing how clothing retailers are contributing to relief efforts and trying to maintain their brands.
Brands Using their Resources to Help
The situation in New York is drawing attention to the gravity of the COVID-19 crisis. Governor Andrew Cuomo has made pleas to the public to help relief efforts as the city is facing a serious shortage of PPE and medical equipment, leaving first-responders at risk. Several brands have stepped up to the plate to help address the lack of ventilators world wide, and now more are joining the fight by helping provide the front lines with PPE.
Brands like Nike, Uniqlo and Brooks Brothers have already shifted the focus of their factories to making face masks and scrubs. Now, Carhartt and New Balance are doing the same. New Balance is the only major athletic brand with factories based in the US, so their shift in production was done smoothly and expeditiously. By meeting with medical experts and “design[ing] [the masks] to actually match the equipment that we have on the factory floor,” New Balance saved time and money by repurposing their domestically sourced materials.
The athletic retailer aims to put out 100,000 masks per week from their factories in Maine and Massachusetts, and they hope to see an immediate impact from their efforts. Dave Wheeler, New Balance’s executive VP of Operations, highlighted their domestic resources by saying, “We have really deep knowledge on that manufacturing process including materials and design [and] development right here in the Boston area.”
Workwear brand, Carhartt, has decided to repurpose their production materials to make masks and medical gowns for those on the front lines of this crisis. In a press release on their website, the brand laid out their plan, “On Monday, April 6, Carhartt will begin producing 50,000 medical gowns, and on April 20, the company will begin manufacturing 2.5 million masks. As long as these critical items are in short supply, Carhartt will continue to assist in production.”
Balancing Safety with Public Perception and Civic Duty
These brands that are producing goods to aid in the fight against COVID-19 are maintaining a very delicate balance between the safety of their workers, their brand and their civic duty. Amazon has been focusing their efforts on helping deliver PPE and essential goods to help the general population, but is facing backlash from their employees — and in turn, the public — due to working conditions.
Carhartt is aware of the delicate balance it must strike. In their press release, they explain how they are “working closely with local health authorities and following recommended protocols to ensure a safe work environment for employees. This includes implementing social distancing protocols, limiting the number of employees, and increasing sanitation measures within facilities to ensure the health and well-being of team members.
Over the last few weeks, Carhartt temporarily closed all company-owned stores and implemented temporary rotating paid work schedules in its manufacturing and distribution facilities to encourage social distancing among associates. Decisions continue to be made based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).”
We have to appreciate the companies who are backing the efforts of our first responders. This is an unprecedented situation that we have found ourselves in and it is inspiring to see how people and corporations are coming together to help us all see it through.