A ‘Rosie the Riveter’ moment represents a time when women famously took over factories to manufacture equipment for the war effort during World War II; there is no denying that the fashion industry is having such a moment. As face masks become a life-saving hot commodity, fashion businesses are turning to their connections in the global supply chain so they can produce protective gear designed to keep healthcare workers safe on the job.
Shifting Resources and Pivoting Production Lines
Rendered idle by the Coronavirus, and mobilizing to solve shortage problems, fashion companies have been making headlines producing PPE. Businesses like high-street brand Zara have pledged to create surgical masks. Also, Prada has promised to deliver 110,000 masks by 6 April 2020 and Suuchi recently announced how their factories would be supporting the production of PPE materials.
Another fashion company forced to move away from ‘business as usual’ is high street brand H&M. The Swedish fast-fashion giant has been busy re-purposing their supply chain so they can manufacture personal protective equipment for hospitals and health care workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, H&M said: “The company’s supply chain teams around the world are now collectively supporting in these initial efforts to support countries and communities worldwide.”
Besides the creation of facial masks, face shields, and hospital gowns, other companies are producing hand sanitizers. Recently, LVMH announced in a press release, that they not only pledged five million euros, but that they are also leveraging their global supply chain to manufacture hydroalcoholic gel to be provided to public authorities.
Fashion businesses are not the only ones stepping up; the beauty industry is also producing hand sanitizers- a product that in their whole business history they have never manufactured before. Working towards the greater good despite business-threatening pressure, companies like L’Oréal, Estée Lauder and Guerlain have found a way to use their factories to make hydroalcoholic gels for hospitals, nursing homes, and food distribution channels.
Accelerating Existing Supply Chains Through Collaborations
The key to the success of the various initiatives taking place is the willingness to collaborate. Companies like the textile mill in North Carolina have been able to produce hospital masks because they have been given access to materials and components thanks to the Sourcing Center, an initiative opened by AAPN (Americas Apparel Producers’ Network). AAPN’s action has made it possible for its network of 1,600 industry owners, managers, and executives to work together to keep their businesses rolling. The mill said, “We made a few samples of masks to see if we could.” Adding, “This will double next week.”
Another collaboration that is tackling the global shortage of protective gear is a new program by Dutch Corona Mask (DCM). They are consolidating people, organizations, and initiatives to devise a Dutch-based supply chain that will enhance mask production. Hoping to build up the depleting reserves, DCM is playing a pivotal role in connecting potential contributors to the collaborative by focusing on five areas.
The first area that DCM identified is the need to find ways to accelerate existing supply chains, followed by the second, which involves setting up new manufacturing lines for traditional masks. Exploring alternative designs and looking to start a supply chain for disposable injection-molded masks in the third area, which leads us to the fourth, how to find a way to clean and reuse the injection-molded masks. Lastly, DCM shared, “The fifth point of focus is on 3D printing for personal use, which is seen as a useful option in-home care.”
Retooling and aligning in a common goal, it looks like the fashion industry is mobilizing while rethinking and refocusing their supply chain so they can successfully fast-track the manufacturing of protective equipment to fight Covid-19. Now the next step is to figure out how the industry is going to overcome the threat and rebuild a more “robust, diverse and agile” supply chain, because if we are going to turn lemons into lemonade then maybe we should attempt to make the fashion industry’s supply chain more circular.