More Fashion Retailers Make Medical Masks and Scrubs for Coronavirus Doctors

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images
Medical personnel at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on March 19

Gap, Eddie Bauer, UNIQLO, Brooks Brothers and Canada Goose are using facilities to make protective medical equipment while it is in short supply.

Since New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appeal last week on Twitter for the public’s help in providing supplies such as face masks to hospitals, more fashion designers and labels have risen to the occasion during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The demand in hospitals for personal protective equipment (PPE) is growing, and hygiene supplies like hand sanitizer remain a hot commodity with grocery stores and online retailers such as Amazon selling out quickly. Red carpet designers including Christian Siriano, Brandon Maxwell and Prada already said they are sewing masks and gowns as the outbreak spreads, with 54,000 cases in the U.S. reported to date.

Gap, Eddie Bauer, UNIQLO, Vera Bradley, Brooks Brothers, Reformation and Canada Goose are among the companies now transforming their workshops into production centers for masks, scrubs and more core products to fight the coronavirus.  

Brooks Brothers has been in talks with federal and state governments for two weeks about providing materials. On Monday, the menswear brand announced it's converting its New York, North Carolina and Massachusetts factories into sites for sewing masks and gowns for U.S. doctors. Brooks Brothers (whose Hollywood fans include Matt McGorry, Christina Hendricks, Zac Posen and Armie Hammer) will produce up to 150,000 masks each day.

"We consider this a duty, and part of our DNA at Brooks Brothers," said CEO Claudio Del Vecchio in a statement. "These are challenging times that are impacting us all. We are deeply grateful to the medical personnel at the frontlines who are fighting the pandemic, and we are honored to do our part."

UNIQLO’s parent company Fast Retailing revealed Friday that it asked its manufacturing partners in China to obtain 10 million masks that will be donated to "high-priority medical facilities" globally. About 1 million will be donated each to New York, Milan and Japan governments. H&M Group also decided it's "quickly arranging" to produce PPE for hospitals and health care workers.

Vera Bradley is switching its Indiana facility to produce masks from the fabric normally used to make handbags. The brand will sell its VB Healthcare Collection online starting March 30 — including scrubs and lab coats — with a discount for medical professionals. 

Reformation, a clothing label worn by Miley Cyrus and Hailey Bieber alike, is partnering with the city of L.A. to use its L.A. factory for the initiative L.A. Protects, which has a goal of making five million non-medical masks to be sold online. Thus, medical mask supplies will be reserved for hospital staff. 

Outdoor clothing label Eddie Bauer has now shifted parts of its production to make medical masks that it will donate to Washington state’s Department of Enterprise Services. Eddie Bauer expects to send 5,000 N95 masks next week and 15,000 more by early April. The brand is based in Seattle, which experienced an early outbreak of the coronavirus; the state has seen about 2,500 cases.   

"With our production capabilities and supply-chain resources, Eddie Bauer is working with our vendors to shift apparel production to make the masks our healthcare workers so urgently need," said Eddie Bauer president Damien Huang in a statement. "Our neighbors here in Washington state and the greater Seattle area have been seriously impacted by COVID-19. We’ve been a part of this community for 100 years, and we take our responsibility to our community seriously. While as a retailer we have been hit hard by the circumstances, we will do what we can to support healthcare workers and facilities in our own backyard."

He added, "Our industry faces enormous challenges ahead, but none as consequential as the health of our communities."

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on coronavirus legislation on Wednesday after reaching an agreement with the White House on a $2.2 trillion spending bill that would send $130 billion to hospitals. And with a shortage of medical professionals, NYU announced Wednesday it would graduate its fourth-year medical students early to get more physicians into the health care system to treat COVID-19 patients. 

L.A.-based Dr. David Josephson estimates that in L.A. County, those on the frontlines will require more than a million masks, gowns and other PPE in the coming weeks and months. Beverly Hills' Dr. Jaime Schwartz estimates with about 1,000 beds and 14,000 full-time employees, Cedars-Sinai will need at least 20,000 masks per day. 

In the meantime, Gap is offering assistance during the global emergency. A rep for the retailer tells The Hollywood Reporter it has established "a small cross-brand and cross-functional team" to leverage its global supply chain and "actively work with California hospitals" to help connect them with Gap's sourcing vendors that have masks and protective gowns. Kaiser Permanente is one medical facility that will benefit from the efforts.

Outwear brand Canada Goose likewise said Wednesday it will use its manufacturing facilities in Toronto and Winnipeg to produce "necessary medical gear" for health care workers combating the virus in Canada. It is beginning to make scrubs and patient gowns and will donate them to hospitals next week. Fifty employees will make the garbs with a goal of creating 10,000 items to start. 

"Across Canada, there are people risking their lives every day on the frontlines of COVID-19 in health care facilities, and they need help. Now is the time to put our manufacturing resources and capabilities to work for the greater good," said Canada Goose president and CEO Dani Reiss in a statement. "Our employees are ready, willing and able to help, and that’s what we’re doing. It’s the Canadian thing to do."

Reiss will forgo his salary for the next three months and instead put the money toward an Employee Support Fund for those affected by store closures.   

Zara’s owner Inditex revealed a week ago that it would make scrubs to aid the efforts in Spain and planned to donate more than 300,000 masks. 

Over in California, Kylie Jenner’s OB-GYN doctor, Dr. Thais Aliabadi, asked for help this week in providing health care professionals with enough personal protective equipment. On Wednesday, Jenner answered the call with a $1 million donation to purchase hundreds of thousands of face masks, face shields and other gear that can be used by doctors treating the coronavirus. She continues to encourage her 160 million Instagram followers to stay home, at the urging of Surgeon General Jerome Adams. 

Aliabadi wrote Wednesday on Instagram, "I am speechless, my eyes are filled with tears of joy and my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude. I made a wish to the Universe to gather protective masks for our brave healthcare workers and today my dream came true."

March 26, 9:00 a.m.: Updated with information from doctors.

March 27, 1:45 p.m.: Updated with additional retailers' efforts.

March 30, 11:20 a.m.: Updated with Brooks Brothers information.