Just as Australia’s fashion businesses answered the call during the 2019-20 Australian bushfires – making everything from wraps to pouches for injured animals and donating profits to assist with recovery – the community has once again bound together to help during COVID-19.
Sydney-based Cue Clothing has partnered with St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney to create scrubs for its frontline staff – “the doctors, nurses and allied health workers who put themselves in harm’s way each and every day to care for their patients and save lives.”
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The brand shared on Instagram: “As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic is creating challenges none of us have faced before. We salute our healthcare workers who are at the forefront of this crisis – their selflessness and bravery each day are protecting our community.”
On a smaller scale, Perth-based brand Ilka the Label has pivoted its fashion business to supply medical scrubs for the local community. The brand launched the initiative through a Go Fund Me crowdfunding campaign.
“We usually create ready-to-wear womenswear, however we have pressed the pause button on our business operations and are now focusing on producing medical scrubs for our medical professionals,” the page says.
“This came about due to overwhelming requests from medical staff seeking scrubs. The medical scrubs come in both a set (top and pants) and separates. All the manufacturing is completed in our Mount Hawthorn studio in Western Australia.”
Sustainability-focused brands Mosov Organic, Papa Drew, Merino Country and A.BCH have added dust masks to their collections, making them available for their local communities while usual stocks are depleted or required for medical staff.
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A.BCH founder Courtney Holm says, “We decided to make the A.BCH masks out of an initial feeling of helplessness/paralysis after COVID was really starting to ramp up.
“Turns out our customers really wanted these too and we decided rather than flat out sell them, that we would give them to our community. This is helpful because it means we can keep our sewers employed and still provide the mask as a gift to each of our customers.”
Keeping their usual focus on sustainability in production, the A.BCH masks are created from surplus organic cotton fabric.
“They also have a flexible wire for the nose which can be cut out at the mask end of life, it can then be safely composted at home,” Holm says.
A.BCH has since open-sourced the pattern for the mask so home sewers can DIY their own.
Another form of DIY that’s sprouted from the COVID-19-enforced social distancing is the make-your-own sewing kits by Melbourne-based fashion label Farn.
Fashion and textile designer Amanda Farncomb said she saw an increased interest in her fabrics and decided to launch a DIY cushion cover with the fabrics. She’s since sold out of her fabric stocks and is looking to release two further DIY kits.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well they’ve been received and I have more and more people contacting me about fabric, which is helping me get through this rough patch,” Farncomb says.
Home sewers are also joining the movement, with influencers such as Kylie Brûlé making quality hats for frontline workers.
Brûlé says, “The QE11 Emergency Department team said [the hats] make the plastic PPE a bit more comfortable and even if they don’t add any actual protection, there’s psychological benefits for the staff and they truly appreciate handmade.”
Want to get involved?
There’s a number of different ways businesses and individuals can help out during this time.
Support local businesses – If you’re looking to shop online, avoid going straight to big guys and seek out local businesses and retailers that are now selling their goods online. Everything from food to fashion to furniture is available through local farmers and makers and is just a click away.
Sew up a storm – connect with your local health organisations or hospitals to see if they’re taking donations of hats or scrubs for their staff. You can also make your own dust mask to help stop the spread.
Get to know brands – take this time to shop proactively rather than reactively. Get to know brands and their values and do your research before you buy. A lot of fashion brands have cancelled huge orders mid-production and are refusing to pay their garment workers because of COVID-19’s impact on sales. Remember to ask #WhoMadeMyClothes and vote with your wallet.