Thursday, April 23, 2020


By Lisa Doherty

Canadian Designers
Stepping Up Against Covid-19

Photos courtesy of Arc'teryx, Sarah Splinter, and THE FERAL

It is no secret that the entire world is at a standstill, facing uncertain times with hopeful re-assurance of brighter days to come. We have all come together in ways that we never envisioned we would in the fight against Covid-19. In most cases, members of each and every Canadian community are finding ways to do their part to keep others safe, and protect family, friends, and essential workers. As a healthcare worker myself, and also a writer for a Fashion and Lifestyle magazine, I am finding my two worlds colliding. It is both surreal and humbling. I find myself connecting with designers that I have been privileged to previously collaborate with, and enjoy their collections at previous fashion weeks, all while gearing up in full PPE to take care of my patients in the evening. As an acute care community physiotherapist, my job in simple, is to rehabilitate and strengthen vulnerable patients who have been discharged home from hospital, and help to prevent them from returning back to the hospital. I am also well aware of the importance of social distancing since as healthcare workers we are in the thick of it, having to isolate to protect those around us. Our priority is to keep our patients and families safe. 

The lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for all essential workers, especially those on the front lines is also at the forefront surrounding Covid-19 discussions, and it is minimizing everyone’s safety. So when well-known designers in the Canadian Fashion Family began stepping up to help health care workers, grocery store employees, first responders, correctional officers, and other essential staff, we were more that happy to give them their well deserved praise. The helpers need recognition for their acts of kindness, but also, so that their products are able to get in the most appropriate hands. At Fashion Studio Magazine, we are grateful for the people that do their part, who have shown their support and empathy to those having to fight this battle. From coast to coast, Canadian designers have stepped up to create PPE for everyone from Emergency Room doctors to truck drivers, mail carriers, pharmacies, banks and beyond including Canada Goose (Winnipeg and Toronto), Stephan Caras (Toronto), Ryerson Fashion School (Toronto), Amelia Rose Designs (Kingston), and Narces (Toronto),

Toronto Western Hospital health care team who receivedd masks and caps from Sarah Splinter’s
group #SewBetterTogether (Photo courtesy of Lisa Doherty)

Health care workers are currently benefitting from the steadfast PPE contributions from designers like Sarah Splinter Designs, where in her Go Fund Me page she states “I recognized my experience in the fashion industry could be an opportunity to redirect efforts and produce free PPE to our front line workers and patients in health care facilities. What began as a seedling of an idea, has blossomed into a beautiful network of volunteers and a generous stream of fabric donations.”

Sarah’s entourage is now known as #SewBetterToghether. The 67-member team is currently manufacturing “washable face masks with disposable filters, scrub caps, and gowns throughout Canada.“ Distribution efforts are focused on the health care professionals working in Labour and Delivery, Maternity Paediatric wards, and Long Term Care facilities.” For further information, click on the link below to the #SewBetterTogether Go Fund Me page. 

Photo courtesy of Sarah Splinter

Arc’teryx, an Outdoor and Sporting Goods company based out of British Columbia, began shifting their focus from outdoor apparel design to PPE prototypes in early April with the main goal to “support health care heroes.” Since then, the prototypes have turned into thousands of items to assist with keeping health care workers protected. Arc'teryx looked at the requirements of personal protection equipment needs in partnership with the regional health authority and industry partners.

“Applying the materials and techniques we use every day in the making of outdoor apparel and gear, we worked quickly over 10 days to pattern, test prototypes and create specs to support the manufacturing of medical gowns. Our manufacturing facility, ARC’One, in New Westminster began tooling up and started production in early April and have already delivered 500 level 3 isolation gowns. As materials arrive over the next few weeks, Arc’teryx will be ramping up to help fulfill the surgical gown shortages. The company will produce 30,000 gowns, committing to a total of 90,000 between us and partners at Mustang Survival and Boardroom Clothing.”

Photo courtesy of Arc'teryx

Photo courtesy of Arc'teryx

Photo courtesy of Arc'teryx

While, essential workers are benefiting from the distribution of PPE, so are other members of the public that often get un-noticed. THE FERAL, a brand from Toronto Ontario spearheaded by lead designer Zakariah Milana, has gone the extra mile and stepped outside of the box by manufacturing masks to “those who do not have the means to purchase them, such as the homeless”, a vulnerable population that has often been looked over throughout this pandemic. A total of “80 percent of masks made were donated” to those less fortunate over the month of April.

 Designer Zakariah Milana (Photo by Angela Milana, Director of Operations of THE FERAL) 

We would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of the Canadian designers and creative who are helping to flatten the curve in Canada. Your passion and determination is helping to keep the country safe and united. We look forward to seeing you at Fashion Weeks around the globe again. Until then, we will enjoy your work, collections and art together, from home. Stay safe, stay healthy.

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