We’ve literally been inundated with stories about initiatives responding to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Most, involve facemasks for the masses, as making surgical quality pieces understandably involves a level of expertise that is best left to those in the business of doing so. When I received notification about the following story, it noticeably stood out amongst the others for the fact that it deals with the gowns for the healthcare workers on the front lines. Enter Garment District for Gowns…
Here’s their story:
Garment District for Gowns, is a nonprofit organization established to help start & scale the manufacturing of medical gowns, beginning with healthcare workers in New York City.
COVID-19 has now afflicted more people in the United States than in any other country in the world. Each day, more people become infected & our hospitals face new challenges handling mounting patient inflows.
Healthcare workers worldwide are taking enormous risks on behalf of us all. New York City hospitals are already in dire need of more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect their staff & mitigate further spread of the disease. They’re especially hurting for masks & gowns.
Garment District for Gowns was founded by a group of independent professionals in the fashion industry, with training & experience working for a plethora of major fashion brands. The founders:
Rachel Rothenberg-Saenz is a graduate of Parsons School of Design, who most recently worked as Head of Product Design & Development for Oscar de la Renta. Previously, she has worked in both design & development capacities at Ralph Lauren, The Row, & Ralph Rucci.
Alex Baylis is a graduate of Central Saint Martins University in London, who most recently worked as Senior Knitwear Designer for Oscar de la Renta. Previously, she has worked at Dior, Carolina Herrera & Vera Wang.
Amy Tiefermann is a graduate of Kent State University in Ohio, who most recently worked as a Patternmaker for Oscar de la Renta. Previously, she has worked at Marchesa & Werkstatt.
The founders point out that their extensive experience across all areas of garment development is not the only asset they are leveraging for this initiative. They emphasize that the project is greatly strengthened by their relationships with factories in New York City’s Garment District which are enabling them to hit the ground running from the moment the concept was born. They literally possess the expertise to take the project from pen to hospital staff distribution in a rapid & smooth manner.
They have assembled our skills & resources to help supply healthcare workers with an essential piece of protection needed on the front lines. They have managed to self-finance the first batch of 300 gowns & have alerted Governor Cuomo’s office & Tri-State area hospitals to coordinate on distribution. The first batch of gowns was be delivered to Mount Sinai & Jersey City hospitals this past week.
What is needed now? They need your help to continue making more gowns & scale more rapidly. The needs in terms of gowns are monumental. New York state currently has 15,000 gowns on hand, with another 145,000 expected from the federal government. The state needs a total of 20 million gowns in three weeks to adequately protect healthcare workers from the virus.
The gowns are being sewn by volunteers from the founders’ professional networks, as well as other incredible individuals who saw the announcements they recently put out via a variety of channels & stepped up to help. Each sewer receives their cutwork in a premade kit, which includes:
- Cutwork for x-amount of gowns
- Latex gloves to use while sewing the gowns, & instructions to wear a mask as they sew
- Instructions to clean their station with bleach before & after they sew
- An extra bag in which to return their finished gowns
- Rolls of fabric are transferred from supplier to driver, both wearing masks & gloves.
- Cutting room is sterilized & all pattern work is performed with masks & gloves
- Cutwork & sewing/ safety supplies are sprayed with disinfectant before being bagged, while wearing masks & gloves.
- A member of the Garment District for Gowns team delivers the bag to the sewer without physical contact
- Sewer disinfects workspaces with bleach prior to sewing & wears a mask & gloves while working.
- Should sewer step away from the project midway, they are instructed to place the garment in its respective bag until returning. Sewing area will then be re-sterilized.
- Once the gown is complete, sewer puts finished product in a new bag that a member of the Garment District for Gowns team will pick up, maintaining six feet of separation from one another.
The cost: It currently costs us an average of $5.50 per gown. This includes materials, trucking for fabric delivery, cutting room costs, & all the supplies that are in the sewing kits provided to the volunteer sewers.
NY has been hit the hardest & first within the United States, however statistics show that COVID-19 will soon affect the rest of the country in a similar fashion. While we are taking care of our own state first (as the need is most dire right here, right now), we plan to expand our efforts nationwide as funding & supplies allow.
Garment District for Gowns has set-up a GoFundMe campaign to raise much needed funds to keep this initiative alive & funded. If you’d like to join the 100’s who have already donated to the cause, please click here.
-R. Scott French
Contact Garment District for Gowns: E-mail