‘We’ve got the skill set’: Australian fashion industry’s plan to tackle coronavirus mask shortage

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Australian designers are rallying to help combat the coronavirus crisis, taking their expertise to the Federal Government in a bid to help stop the spread.

The Australian fashion industry is rallying to help combat the coronavirus crisis, taking its expertise to Canberra to make masks and other protective gear.

A leading denim brand has revealed it has held discussions with the Federal Government to convert its factory to manufacture facial masks and surgical-grade gowns during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Nobody Denim co-founder John Condilis said the jeans brand had already held discussions with the Federal Government about the possibility of using its Melbourne facility.

Mr Condilis said Nobody’s factory – located in Melbourne’s Thornbury – had the capacity to manufacture 12,000 masks and up to 5000 surgical gowns per week. It currently makes about 3000 pairs of denim jeans with 50 garment machinists in the same time frame.

Nobody Denim co-founder John Condilis with a garment worker inside Nobody Denim’s Melbourne factory. The brand is developing prototypes to manufacture masks amind coronavirus.Nobody Denim co-founder John Condilis with a garment worker inside Nobody Denim’s Melbourne factory. The brand is developing prototypes to manufacture masks amind coronavirus.
Camera IconNobody Denim co-founder John Condilis with a garment worker inside Nobody Denim’s Melbourne factory. The brand is developing prototypes to manufacture masks amind coronavirus. Credit: Supplied, Nobody
Nobody Denim’s surgical masks and gown samples.Nobody Denim’s surgical masks and gown samples.
Camera IconNobody Denim’s surgical masks and gown samples. Credit: Supplied, Nobody

“We reached out to the Federal Government and have had discussions with them to assess our capabilities, and to see what the next steps will be,” Mr Condilis told News Corp exclusively.

Mr Condilis and his staff have developed prototypes of masks that could be supplied to hospitals and medical centres.

“Retail has pretty much come to a halt. I thought about it – what else do people need?

“We’ve got the facility, we’ve got the skill set, if we don’t, we’ll learn. We’re here to help.

“No one knows where it (coronavirus) is going – where it will end up.”

Kangrajah Yokachanthiran working on a surgical gown inside Nobody Denim’s Melbourne factory.Kangrajah Yokachanthiran working on a surgical gown inside Nobody Denim’s Melbourne factory.
Camera IconKangrajah Yokachanthiran working on a surgical gown inside Nobody Denim’s Melbourne factory. Credit: Supplied, Nobody

A Cue spokesman said the brand was exploring ways to use its design and manufacturing resources to help with the mask shortage, with the retailer saying it was “unable to purchase enough face masks, gloves and hand sanitisers for its stores”.

Studio Amelia’s founder Emily Inglis and her team was working with local suppliers who could produce masks, using surplus fabric that “would otherwise go to waste”.

Nobody Denim makes up to 3000 pairs of jeans per week in its Australian factory.Nobody Denim makes up to 3000 pairs of jeans per week in its Australian factory.
Camera IconNobody Denim makes up to 3000 pairs of jeans per week in its Australian factory. Credit: Supplied, Nobody
Inside Nobody Denim’s Melbourne HQ. The label is known for its flattering denim designs, stocked at retailers including David Jones.Inside Nobody Denim’s Melbourne HQ. The label is known for its flattering denim designs, stocked at retailers including David Jones.
Camera IconInside Nobody Denim’s Melbourne HQ. The label is known for its flattering denim designs, stocked at retailers including David Jones. Credit: Supplied, Nobody

Vogue Australia editor and Australian Fashion Council chair Edwina McCann said the fashion industry was “pulling together as a community” to help with the health crisis.

“The Australian fashion industry is in a dire situation, and some are already on the brink of insolvency and have laid off staff,” Ms McCann said.

“And yet they are pulling together as a community, helping one another and trying to do their bit for the country too. I applaud our local industry who are working together with manufacturers trying to help.

“Our most creative are often our most innovative and the Australian fashion industry is behind doing what is best for the country.”

The Australian fashion industry’s moves to help deal with COVID-19 came as overseas brands Zara, Prada, Balenciaga, Gucci and Saint Laurent are manufacturing face masks and surgical gowns to help with the COVID-19 crisis.

Prada this week announced it would produce 110,000 masks by April 6. Gucci has pledged to make a million masks in the coming weeks.

Kering, which owns Gucci, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent, is making face masks that comply with “strictest health protection measures for their staff members, with production getting underway as soon as the manufacturing process and materials have been approved by the relevant authorities”.

LVMH – the owner of Dior, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Givenchy – has pledged to make 40 million masks, and has converted three of its perfume factories to manufacture hand sanitiser.

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