Kent State Fashion Alumna Joins COVID-19 Fight with ‘Garment District for Gowns’
While many in the fashion world have been focusing on fulfilling the country’s need for masks, a group of industry professionals from New York City’s Garment District is hard at work to fill the void of another much-needed medical supply.
Led by Kent State University School of Fashion 2014 alumna, Amy Tiefermann, and her fellow New York City designers, Rachel Rothenberg-Saenz and Alex Baylis, the trio started the movement Garment District for Gowns, a nonprofit organization established to help start and scale the manufacturing of medical gowns, beginning with healthcare workers in New York City. To date, the trio and their community have donated thousands of gowns to over 14 medical facilities around New York, producing around 10,000 gowns a week to help fight the virus.
New York City has become the epicenter of the pandemic, now with more cases in the country than any other city, and medical workers in the state are facing shortages of many types of medical supplies.
Garment District for Gowns plans to use their design, product development, sewing and pattern-making backgrounds to help with the shortage of medical gowns. The group chose to focus on gowns because they can source the appropriate fabrics needed that meet the rigorous standards of the healthcare community. Unlike face masks, medical gowns are made of high-performance fabrics. Through the team’s extensive backgrounds, they are familiar with the materials and handling needed for producing the gowns in large quantities. The group is composed of independent professionals from the fashion industry, with training and experience working for brands such as Ralph Lauren, Dior, Marchesa, The Row, Vera Wang, Ralph Rucci, and Oscar de la Renta, all of whom have strong relationships with factories in the Garment District.
To create the gowns, the team uses a durable, water-repellent, extra strength, ripstop nylon with a breathable polyurethane coating and for the gown cuffs, they use organic cotton jersey. “We did a lot of research as to what materials we could use and the function of them and who would be using them,” Tiefermann told New York Daily News.
The group directly consulted with medical professions and based their patterns off of standard medical gown patterns with an open back and ties around the waist and back of the neck, aiding in quick application and removal. Over 30 volunteers have banded together to sew the gowns using the team’s premade kits, which includes all the materials needed to sew the gowns safely and efficiently. The materials and gowns are created and delivered safely following proper handling, safety and sterilizing precautions per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
It currently costs the group an average of $5.50 to make each gown, which includes the materials, trucking for fabric delivery, cutting room costs, latex gloves and sewing kits for volunteer sewers. The trio initially self-funded their first batch of 300 medical gowns but are using funds they have raised to cover the rest. To date, Garment District for Gowns has raised over $60,000 from over 700 donors but aims to raise at least $100,000 to meet their goal. Their initiative has even caught the attention of Johnson & Johnson who donated 2,000 resealable bags to package the gowns.
After donating the first batch of gowns to doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital, the state Health Department, Metropolitan Hospital and Jersey City Medical Center, their list has grown to include 14 area hospitals to date.They are up to almost 10,000 gowns per week and are hoping to ramp up to 30,000 a week by the end of May and have been in close contact with New York City Governor, Andrew Cuomo, to coordinate distribution and production.
UPDATE: JUNE 25, 2020
Garment District for Gowns has donated over 130,000 medical gowns to healthcare facilities across New York. They are currently producing over 30,000 gowns a week. Most recently they pledged to donate the next round of gowns to underserved hospitals, community health centers, nursing homes and schools throughout NYC to better support the Black community and protect those fighting on the forefront of social justice and healthcare.
Garment District for Gowns is now seeking more help to expand their output of gowns and increase their scale more rapidly to adequately protect healthcare workers from the virus. Anyone interested in taking part in this initiative can help by contributing to the group’s GoFundMe campaign.
To learn more about Garment District for Gowns, follow them on social media:
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Gowns worn by SUNY Downstate Medical Center residents. (Photo by Garment District for Gowns).
Marketing Associate, School of Fashion