To combat the shortage of masks in France amidst the coronavirus epidemic, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent have started manufacturing them in their French workshops.

According to a statement from their parent company, Kering, the two luxury fashion brands will produce surgical face masks for healthcare workers “while complying with the strictest health protection measures”. To step things up, the Paris-based luxury group will be importing three million masks from China on behalf of the French health service as well.

Kering’s rival, LVMH, also plans to ship 40 million face masks from a Chinese supplier into France, where the number of coronavirus cases has risen to over 15,000. Last week, the French luxury giant converted its fragrance factories for Dior and Givenchy to make hand sanitisers — another medical supply in high demand.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

In the UK, Burberry has committed to supplying 100,000 surgical masks to NHS workers. It has also converted its trench coat factory in Yorkshire to manufacture non-surgical gowns and masks for patients in British hospitals.

In Italy, where protective gear for doctors and nurses are also scarce, Kering-owned Gucci is producing 1.1 million masks and 55,000 pairs of medical overalls. The Italian fashion brand’s efforts are joined by Prada, whose factory in Montone is now being used to manufacture 110,000 masks and 80,000 overalls that will be donated to hospitals in Tuscany. Prada has also funded six new ICUs across hospitals in Milan.

Aside from donations, Zegna has likewise converted its production facilities in Italy and Switzerland to make medical masks and supply them in both countries.

Their response follows the Italian government’s decision to shut down all nonessential factories in the country, which is now one of the worst-hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of coronavirus infections in the European country has climbed to close to 60,000, with the world’s highest death toll of over 5,000 deaths.

The US, whose number of cases has surged to over 30,000, ranks close behind. There, independent fashion designers Brandon Maxwell and Christian Siriano have started the production of medical supplies.

Through a statement on Instagram, Maxwell shared that his brand is now in the midst of focusing on creating gowns for doctors and nurses treating COVID-19 patients. The American designer also intends to make medical grade masks and gloves as soon as more information of manufacturing them becomes available.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Similarly, Siriano and his team are working to produce a few thousand masks a week for hospitals in New York. The masks, while washable and reusable, are not medical grade, but the Project Runway winner plans to acquire the approved materials and patterns to meet official health standards.

Both Siriano and Maxwell are based in New York, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in the US. They also join the list of smaller, self-funded American fashion businesses, like Pyer Moss, that have pitched in to aid the shortage of supplies.

Fellow American fashion brand Ralph Lauren has also chipped in: besides making a hefty donation to WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, the New York brand is also supplying 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolations gowns to hospitals that need the medical equipment.

Other bigger companies like PVH (which owns Calvin Klein) and Capri Holdings (Michael Kors, Versace) have yet to respond to the crisis — though it may not be soon before they do, given the rising rate of infections in the US.

This story has been updated on 30 March 2020.

Pameyla Cambe
Senior Writer
Pameyla Cambe is a fashion and jewellery writer who believes that style and substance shouldn't be mutually exclusive. She makes sense of the world through Gothic novels, horror films and music. Lots of music.