Brands making a difference for COVID-19 relief efforts

With the global death toll reaching over 33,000 and medical, health, and safety supplies quickly diminishing, many companies worldwide have started conducting ways to combat the Coronavirus pandemic. LVMH of France has spearheaded the movement with their efforts being heavily highlighted in the media. This mecca of a company was the first to announce, over a week ago, its contribution to relief efforts by switching some of their perfume and cosmetic facilities, such as those that produce Christian Dior, Guerlain, and Givenchy, to manufacturing hand sanitizer. The hand sanitizer would then be distributed to French health authorities and hospitals free of charge. They announced Sunday, March 15th, of their plan, and by Monday LVMH had already produced, bottled, and began their first round of deliveries. They were able to expedite this process due to the fact that their facilities already contained three of the main ingredients used to make hand sanitizer: purified water, ethanol, and glycerine. In addition to this, LVMH secured 40 million face masks from a Chinese supplier for distribution, in which the company (according to CEO Bernard Arnault) would be financing for the first week of deliveries.

LVMH Hand Sanitizer Factory, Courtesy of LVHM Instagram.

Kering, the Paris-based parent company of Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, and their Italian brand Gucci, announced that they too would be making efforts for COVID-19 relief. Kering claimed Sunday that Balenciaga and Saint Laurent would begin production on face masks, as well as provide 3 million surgical masks to French health services. As for Gucci, they would be producing and donating a total of 1.1 million masks and 55,000 medical overalls for Italian health services. Marco Bizzam, Chief Executive Officer of Gucci, personally gave over $100,000 to hospitals, primarily located in the Emilia-Romagna region, an area containing some of the largest numbers of infections in Italy.

Other companies, such as Prada, are making an impact as well. Prada announced on March 16th that they would be funding the creation of 3 new ICU’s throughout Milan. Following this news, they announced Monday that they plan to produce roughly 80,000 overalls and 110,000 face masks for Italian medical personnel.

Fast-fashion international brands such as H&M and Zara are making plans and promises to relieve issues placed on communities due to COVID-19. Quite possibly the most notable being H&M, according to a NY Post article. The Swedish based company has donated $500,000 to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, as well as turned their supply chains into production sites for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to give to workers and centers focused in health and medicine worldwide.

H&M Response to COVID-19, Courtesy of H&M Instagram.

Spanish based company Zara is following suit with providing relief aid to their home country. Inditex, parent company of Zara, donated 10,000 face masks and are planning to ship out another 300,000 in the coming week, according to a personal statement regarding Zara’s operations. They also promise to look further into providing hospital gowns, and other health materials by utilizing their textile-manufacturing capacity.

As for the United States, although the Coronavirus came later to our shores, many American fashion brands and companies including General Motors, Netflix, Kraft-Heinz, Christian Siriano, Dov Charney of LA Apparel, Karla Colletto, and Big Bud Press are actively involved in COVID-19 relief efforts.

Christian Siriano in his studio, photographed for The Untitled Magazine.

Siriano, “Project Runway” host and former star, is combatting COVID-19 by working hand in hand with Gov. Cuomo’s office in New York to meet mask demands. This follows Cuomo’s cry for help for any and all New York companies and businesses to manufacture protective supplies. According to The New York Times, Siriano is utilizing ten seamstresses that are all working from home, as a means to supply reusable and washable (hot water based) masks to hospital staff and individuals. He claims, as of now these masks are free of charge, but with time if high demand persists, then they will have to start charging a small fee, simply due to the fact that the business is self-funded.

      Siriano Response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo via Twitter.

Dov Charney, former founder of American Apparel, is jumping in on the mask production trend through his recently founded company LA Apparel. These masks, just like that of Siriano’s will be reusable and washable. As of now, he has made deliveries to Seattle, New Mexico, New York and Las Vegas. Hospitals located in Los Angeles will also continuously receive masks free of charge, and consumers can purchase masks priced at 3 for $30 on the company’s website. His factory consists of 450 employees, but he has put drastic measures in place to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Some of these practices include requiring masks to be worn at all times, daily temperature checks before entering and leaving the building, and placing equipment and machinery 6 feet apart.

Karla Colletto is another designer taking part in mask production, but unlike Siriano and Charney’s own creations, her masks will be replicating 3M designs and materials. She first started getting involved after her own company had to cease production. She wanted to be able to bring back at least 40 employees, so they began making hospital gowns. Now, they are focusing on mask production. According to The New York Times, Colletto claims this is all possible “because we have our own facility, we can be flexible and switch gears quickly.” This includes measures like ensuring machines are six feet apart, following OSHA safety guidelines, and keeping close communication with employees.

What is arguably more impressive than this, is the efforts being made by small business owners, such as Big Bud Press, an LA based company specializing in size-inclusivity and unisex clothing. They have started the Medical Mask Fund. It costs $5 per person, and is in response to the shelter-in-place order in California, which has put many out of work. They agree this order was necessary, but since they are a small business, income is essential to financing their 150+ employees and factory workers. Therefore, they partnered with contractors to devise a plan: sewing masks, as well as providing money to employers who can’t or choose not to work due to coronavirus fears and worries. Hence, the creation of the Medical Mask Fund. Their initial goal was to produce 100-200 masks a day, yet days after this announcement they found out they were capable of producing more around 1,000, and project for that number to grow. These masks are being distributed to LA and Chicago hospitals, homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, and more.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA), a not-for-profit trade association is partnering with Vogue to launch A Common Thread. Their motive solely focuses on supporting the fashion community. They stated that they want “to raise both awareness and needed funds for those in the American fashion community who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

However, the fashion industry is not the only business sector contributing to relief aid. In fact, General Motors (GM) is a perfect example of going above and beyond to help those in need. According to GM’s website, they are exploring several different avenues, including: partnering with Ventec Life Systems, in corporation with StopTheSpread.org, to help increase production of respiratory products; $2 million to nonprofits focused in critical needs; Allocating their Global Purchasing Supply Chain team to finding any excess Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); Setting up a donation portal for employees; and many employees are partnering with Sleeves Up Campaign to give blood to local communities.

Kraft-Heinz is another company well on its way to giving back to the community. Some of their efforts include donating $12 million dollars, of which $1.9 is in direct cash, and $4.7 in products such as, Kraft Mac and Cheese, Heinz gravy, Planters nut mixes, and Devour frozen meals. Any extra money being donated to Feeding America and other food banks.

For a more comprehensive list of company efforts:

  • LYFT- Tens of thousands of rides for essential transportation needs to the public (mainly families, children, low-income seniors, and doctors/nurses)
  • Keen- Donated 100,000 pairs of shoes to those in need
  • Pure Bloom- Turned facilities into hand sanitizer production, including a CBD line
  • Netflix- Relief fund of $100 million, including $15 million to donations of already existing organizations to support out of work production employees
  • Microsoft- Teamed up with the CDC to create a “chatbot” centered around answering people’s questions regarding the virus
  • Under Armour- $1 million to Feeding America and Good Sports

These companies are ultimately showing, whether the impact is big or small, that anyone is capable of doing something to help make a change. It is clear that COVID-19 is not even close to disappearing, and that its effects will wreak havoc over many businesses, communities, and countries for a long time. Therefore, if any of this has inspired you to get involved, here is a list of a few organizations open to the public to support and donate to:

COVID-19 Solidarity Relief Fund (WHO)
A Common Thread
Medical Mask Fund
Feeding America
Blessings in a Backpack
SAG-AFTRA Foundation

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