Fashion industry mobilises to address global PPE shortages


As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic leads to shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) worldwide, a number of fashion retailers and manufacturers are mobilising their production facilities and supply chains to help fill the void, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.


Beth Wright, Apparel Correspondent for GlobalData, comments: “As citizens and healthcare workers alike try to protect themselves from the virus, global stocks of essential goods such as face masks and hospital gowns are depleting. In an attempt to help, fashion firms ranging from retailers to suppliers are switching production and leveraging their supply chains to help produce, source and deliver essential PPE.”


Retailers H&M, Brooks Brothers and Canada Goose are among those joining the charge, with the latter committing to manufacture medical scrubs and patient gowns at its sites in Toronto and Winnipeg, with the opportunity to extend production across additional facilities.


Also on board are Kering-owned luxury fashion labels Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent, UK fashion brand Burberry, and a number of suppliers to the apparel industry, including Stretchline. Best-known as one of the world’s leading suppliers of narrow fabrics and elastics for end-uses such as lingerie, intimate apparel, sports and activewear, the firm is switching its production to elastics that can be used in medical face masks.


Meanwhile, apparel software maker Gerber Technology has established a task force to help manufacturers convert their production to PPE, and SEAMS – the US Association for the US Sewn Products Industry – has launched a programme to help align sourcing agents with PPE supply chains. 


Chemicals manufacturer Huntsman Corporation is also to begin making hydro alcoholic solution to produce hand sanitiser, in response to an urgent appeal by Swiss authorities.


Wright concludes: “As apparel orders dry up and access to raw materials becomes more difficult in the face of the pandemic and countrywide lockdowns, fashion firms that are able should heed calls to address global PPE shortages, whether it be through manufacture, sourcing, or distribution.


“The industry has long called for greater collaboration among its players and it is encouraging to see the sector banding together during the crisis. Those playing their part must be applauded for their efforts.”