As Coronavirus spread across the US, textile and apparel makers quickly diverted their production lines to manufacturing PPE items like face masks and hospital gowns that were in short supply. Though many apparel retailers and brands are anxious to return to core product lines, they may not be able to do so as most will have to first contend with the excess PPE inventory in warehouses. There are also retailers who plan to stick to their PPE production lines as they believe wearing face masks will now become a commonplace fixture in the American wardrobe. Prominent amongst these is Cone Denim which is shifting a part of its loom capacity to produce Maxima medical fabrics for its sister division, Burlington. The fabrics manufactured by the brand promote a more responsible, sustainable solution for the long term.
Torchbearers of the trend
Another brand that has forayed into PPE manufacturing is Hanesbrand which recently launched two non-medical-grade face mask styles, Cool Comfort and Signature Stretch-to-Fit. The company also supplies the US government with over 320 million reusable cloth face coverings and more than 20 million reusable long-sleeve medical gowns. It plans to create an ongoing product line of basic personal protective garments to serve its consumer in the commercial and governmental markets.
Similarly Gildan Activewear began manufacturing PPE in April to address the shortage in the market. The company supplies non-medical face masks to the health care sector. It also produces non-medical face masks and isolation gowns for various retailers to be distributed to health care organizations. In future, it plans to produce more than 150 million masks and gowns to service the consortium and retailers under this effort.
Emergence of a new thought process
Sherry Wood, Director-Merchandising, Texollin believes the pandemic has changed the thought processes of both the public and industry. It has forced manufacturers and retailers across the country to connect and contact each other through various platforms, organizations and associations.
The pandemic also created a new generation of leaders who are constantly pushing new ideas. The importance of PPE products has increased many folds giving manufacturers an opportunity to improve their skills, adopt new technologies and other new innovative ways to be ahead of the game. Its ability to retool overnight to making masks and gowns has created many success stories in the US’ PPE industry. One of these is Under Armour, the brand recognized the need for performance solutions that would support athletes navigating the pandemic climate. It began manufacturing face masks designed by its innovation team and distributed millions of units of PPE to health care and community organizations to help fight the spread of COVID-19.