We are so proud to see so many AAPN members featured in this article, and we know, from the stories we are hearing and emails and bulletins we are receiving that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what you are all doing to aid in this time of crisis. As we wrote the other day, there should be another A in AAPN, for amazing.
Oh, and hey, look at that, I even got a mention … Mike
U.S. Fashion Industry Mobilizes To Supply Hospitals With Protective Gear To Meet Threat From Coronavirus
Pamela N. Danziger, Senior Contributor
Coronavirus is redefining “fast fashion.” Instead of turning out near instant copies of the latest runway fashion trends, American fashion brands and suppliers are shifting production to produce the “fashion” that is most needed now: protective gear to keep healthcare workers and first responders safe on the job.
Brands as diverse as PVH’s Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, AllBirds, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Citizens of Humanity, Gap and its sister brands, Vera Bradley, Eddie Bauer, designer Christian Sirano, Neiman Marcus and Joann Stores have shifted resources to supply hospitals and other organizations with personal protective equipment (PPE), including facial masks, face shields and hospital gowns.
“It’s our ‘Rosie the Riveter’ moment,” says fashion-supply chain entrepreneur Lisa Morales-Hellebo, referring to the iconic image from World War II when women took over factories to manufacture equipment for the war effort.
Last Thursday, Morales-Hellebo launched a COVID-19 response initiative through The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation (#TWSCF), which she founded in 2018 with support from the early-stage venture capital fund REFASHIOND Ventures.
#TWSCF will play matchmaker between local hospitals and support organizations, like Masks for Docs and HelpHospitals.io, and U.S.-based soft and hard-goods manufacturers and suppliers to get the PPCs they need.
“The last six years of my 25-year technology career have been specifically focused on the fashion industry infrastructure, deployment strategies and supply chains here in the U.S,” Morales-Hellebo explains.
“I’ve long known that localization is our best and only chance to fix fashion’s utterly broken supply chain. With cyber-physical systems, advanced robotics and materials, we can catalyze a paradigm shift for the apparel industry to get to its sustainability, circularity and transparency goals by 2030.”
Recognizing that a robust localization platform was missing to meet the critical need to match supply with local demand in the U.S., Morales-Hellebo aligned a network of logistic providers, manufacturers and makers of soft goods, 3D printers for hard goods like face shields, and hospitals around four regional hubs to funnel products where they are most needed now and will be needed next.
“When I saw the need, I knew we had to spring into action because if there was ever a time to get localization of the supply chain proven, it was now,” she says.
Last Friday, she mounted a simple Google form to have companies register for the types of materials or services they could offer. The results, she says, have been overwhelming and enabled her to extend her supply chain hub from the Northeast to regional hubs in the South, Midwest and West in only five days.
One of the first to sign on was JOOR, an online wholesale platform connecting fashion, beauty and home brands and suppliers with retailers. Also lending cutting-edge tech support to manage #TWSCF’ workflow is Airtable.
“We have established command central to keep supply moving in real time to meet rapidly shifting demand,” she says.
Also stepping up to the plate to mobilize fashion suppliers is the Atlanta-based Americas Apparel Producers’ Network, founded in 1981.
Managing director Mike Todaro explains, “We’re a textile/apparel supply chain network with 200 member companies in all 30 links for the apparel supply chain (retail, factory, fabric, thread, shipping, etc.), from the ‘dirt to the shirt.’”
This past Sunday morning, the AAPN opened an online Sourcing Center to tie its network of 1,600 industry owners, managers, and executives together and keep their businesses rolling. In only 12 hours, 800 people had logged on and the number is over 3,000 contacts and growing.
It worked overnight for one textile mill in N.C. that closed up last Friday only to open again on Monday to begin producing hospital masks.
The mill owner said, “Last Friday we made a few samples of masks to see if we could. By Monday, we began making 8,000-10,000 masks a day and this will double next week. Without the Sourcing Center, there is no way we would have access to the materials and components that before we knew nothing about.”
With success stories like that, the AAPN has now opened the Sourcing Center to members of other industry associations supplying uniforms, fabric and equipment.
While the APPN members don’t carry the needed medical gear in their inventory, they make every component that goes into the strict compliance requirements for masks and other medical sewn products.
“We are matchmaking producers to medical staff realtime from here. It’s working,” he concludes.