Published 23 March 2020: Another day, another worrying headline concerning the spread of COVID-19. While the general public adheres to social distancing and quarantine protocols, and shops shutter their doors, fashion brands, car manufacturers and intrepid startups are turning over their physical spaces to help fight the virus’s spread.

Here’s a quick round-up of who’s doing what.

Balenciaga and Saint Laurent swap couture for face masks

Last night Balenciaga’s owner, luxury fashion group Kering S.A., announced that its workshops are ‘preparing to manufacture masks while complying with the strictest health protection measures for their staff members, with production getting underway as soon as the manufacturing process and materials have been approved by the relevant authorities.’

The switch-up comes in response to a shortage of face masks in France, which is currently on ‘lockdown’. The number of confirmed Coronavirus cases has passed 16,000, and over 647 people have lost their lives. In the meantime, Kering S.A. – which also owns Gucci, Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta – will donate 3 million masks, ordered from China, as Balenciaga’s Paris workshop and Saint Laurent’s ready-to-wear factory in Angers start production.

The conglomerate’s largest brand, Gucci, is currently seeking approval from the Italian authorities to produce 1 million facemasks to help with the shortage there.

Christian Dior is making hand sanitiser

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French factories normally used to make perfumes and cosmetic for brands including Dior, Loewe, Givenchy and Guerlain have retooled to manufacture hand sanitising gel in a bid to prevent a nationwide shortage in the country. Luxury conglomerate LVMH owns the brands, alongside Louis Vuitton, and it announced the measures on 16 March 2020. Lines are now making the hydroalcoholic gel which LVMH will distribute to hospitals and healthcare centres for free.

LVMH is also donating 40 million facemasks from China to the French authorities, taking over procurement and supply change management for the order. The first batch of 10 million is scheduled to arrive in the next few days.

Ferrari will manufacture hospital respirators

Via Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Italian hospitals are desperately short of breathing respirators and ventilators and their primary producer, Bologna-based Siare Engineering International, has turned to race car specialists Ferrari for help in doubling to double its weekly output from 150 machines to 500.

According to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the car brand will turn its Maranello plant into an assembly factory for the ventilators. Siare’s chief executive Gianluca Preziosa told Reuters: ‘We’re talking to Fiat Chrysler, Ferrari and Marelli to try to understand if they can lend us a hand in this process for the electronics part.’

US car manufacturers General Motors, Tesla and Ford will also devote manufacturing resources to helping with the nation’s shortage of ventilators.

Distilleries are brewing antibacterial hand gel

Via Creative Commons

Over in Canada, London-based beer giant Labatts pledged to make 50,000 bottles of hand sanitizer at its plants in Vancouver, Edmonton, London, Toronto and Montreal. The bottles will be donated to employees, healthcare workers, bars and restaurants offering takeout, and food banks across the country.

‘We realised we did have capacity to be able to do this, so it seemed like the absolute right thing to do when we heard there was a need,’ Charlie Angelakos, a Labatt vice president told the London Free Press.


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Smaller manufacturers including Stratford distillery Junction 56 and Kinsip Spirits are adding alcohol-based hand sanitiser to their production lines to help with Canadian efforts.

Over the border in New York State, companies including Greenhook Ginsmiths have leapt into action after Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, allowing the government to force American industry to produce medical supplies that are needed to fight COVID-19. The Alcohol, Tobacco, Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB) announced distilleries would now be legally allowed to produce hand sanitiser, tax-free, mobilising companies across the nation.


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Updated 26 March 2020: Prada joined the ranks of fashion brands fighting COVID-19 on 25 March 2020 when it announced it would produce 110,000 masks by 6 April.

Similarly, the Armani Group has diverted all four of its production sites to create single-use medical overalls for health-care providers.

High street brands including Zara and H&M have also weighed in. The Spanish brand’s owner Inditex will have donated around 300,000 surgical masks by the end of the week while H&M Group is reorganising its supply chain to produce protective equipment for healthcare workers and hospitals.

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