Fashion designers make face masks

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A fashion designer known for his “fantasy” evening dresses and cocktail dresses is starting to make a completely different accessory: face masks.

Former Project Runway winner Christian Siriano is one of the US designers and apparel manufacturers who switch from making haute couture and other clothing to making personal protective gear. It increases production in the face of a nationwide shortage of masks and other medical supplies Coronavirus patients begin to flood America’s hospital systems.

Siriano – who lives in New York City and now before biggest virus outbreak in the United States – tweeted on Friday that he would hire his sewing staff to make masks after New York governor Andrew Cuomo pleaded for local companies to make more surgical masks, robes and gloves.

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The designer said his team is optimizing the manufacturing process and will get approval from the Food and Drug Administration before seriously starting to make masks. Siriano declined to be interviewed by CBS MoneyWatch to “focus on the task at hand,” a company spokesman said.

Other local designers also want to lend a hand. Pamela Barsky, who makes quirky canvas bags and pouches, said on Twitter that her small factory in Manhattan’s trendy East Village neighborhood can make about 500 masks a day.

The hospital sews makeshift masks to combat the shortage

In California, American Apparel founder and former CEO Dov Charney said that his new company, Los Angeles Apparel, has been making facial masks for their employees for more than a month.

“Our employees use masks not only for corona viruses, but also for other uses. Five to six weeks ago, when we couldn’t get surgical masks, we started making our own,” Charney told CBS MoneyWatch.

The company now produces hundreds of thousands of masks a week and sells 3 packs of washable cotton face masks with straps for $ 30 online. He said he also donated more than 10,000 masks to hospitals in California, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Washington.

“The mask is made of a thick French cotton terry – like a thick sweatshirt but without a brush,” he said. “I’m wearing one while we’re talking,” he said over the mask, adding that Los Angeles Apparel is also designing a surgical gown.

Los Angeles Apparel sells a pack of 3 cotton facial masks on its website for $ 30.

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The luxury fashion houses Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent will also start producing surgical masks for their own employees until the regulatory approval is obtained, the parent company Kering said in a statement on its website.

Surgical masks are loose-fitting, typically disposable devices that protect the wearer from large droplets or splashes that may contain viruses, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, they do not block or filter the tiny particles that can be transmitted through coughing or sneezing.

So-called N95 respirators, which are recommended for healthcare workers, block at least 95% of the small particles and offer more filtration than face masks. Designers do not make N95 equivalents or masks that offer medical protection.

However, masks, robes and other personal protective equipment are so scarce that federal officials have advised hospital staff to use surgical masks when treating patients who may experience the coronavirus without N95 masks. The FDA also issued a letter to healthcare providers earlier this month asking them to conserve care by reusing masks and using them in non-surgical environments after their expiration dates expire.