With the anticipated shortage of protective equipment for front-line healthcare workers looming and call-outs from the government to suppliers for help, the Canadian fashion industry is stepping up. After hearing about it in the news, Toronto-based designer Hilary MacMillan decided to use her womenswear label’s manufacturing capabilities to produce masks from upcycled materials. “We’re going to do it as long as it’s needed,” says MacMillan. “We’re just here to help the community as much as possible.”

The team of three sewers – including herself – will be producing 100 non-medical cotton masks per week, each one taking about 15 minutes to make from cutting the fabric to sewing it together (she estimates that they can increase production to 250 masks per week, if needed). While the Government of Canada does not recommend the use of a mask if you’re healthy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S. notes that homemade masks can be used as a last resort, in the case of healthcare professionals. The masks produced by MacMillan’s studio will be donated by request to any groups or persons in need.

Despite the adjustments of transitioning to working from home and the uncertainties of the next few months, MacMillan is moving ahead with next season’s collection. “From a business perspective, we’re a wholesaler, so we rely heavily on retail locations and everyone’s closed,” she says. “We’re still doing e-commerce but it’s difficult to predict.” In terms of what Canadians can do to support independent brands like herself, she says every little thing counts. “I’ve been seeing a lot of people buying gift cards and even posting on social media or liking a post from us,” says MacMillan. “Any kind of support and extra eyes on our business is so helpful during this time.”

Other Canadian brands are also contributing to the pandemic response. Vancouver-based Vessi Footwear is donating a thousand pairs of their lightweight and waterproof knit sneakers to frontline medical workers across Canada. Toronto-based intimate apparel brand Knixwear has started a GoFundMe to raise money for personal protective equipment (masks, gowns and gloves). Calgary-based brands SophieGrace and Madame Premier have collaborated with artist Mandy Stobo on a trio of limited edition t-shirts featuring portraits of Bonnie Henry (chief medical officer of British Columbia), Deena Hinshaw (chief medical officer of Alberta) and Theresa Tam (Canada’s chief public health officer). All of the net proceeds from sales of this collection will be donated to local organizations supporting food security: Greater Vancouver Food Bank, Fresh Routes in Calgary and Second Harvest in Toronto.

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Updated: We have a full collection featuring our Canadian Public Health Heroines. You asked and we answered. Madame Premier and SophieGrace Designs are collaborating on a T-Shirt in order to support our community in this time of uncertainty and stress. The incredible Calgary based artist Mandy Stobo (@badportaits) created this beautiful portrait of Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. As the Covid19 crisis envelops the world Dr. Hinshaw takes to the airwaves on a daily basis to offer calm, clear facts and advice. Her manner is caring and direct and you can tell she is aware of all of the impacts of her decisions. We are grateful to have such a professional caring person at the helm helping us move through this crisis. Another phenomenal Alberta woman helping out in these times is Lourdes Juan. Lourdes is the co-founder of Fresh Routes, a mobile grocery store. They are currently preparing and delivering emergency food baskets to those who are in need and are trapped in their homes. All profits from the sale of the Deanna T Shirt will be donated to Fresh Routes Emergency Fund. Shirts are pre-sale and will be shipping the week of March 30.l Link In Bio

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The Canadian Apparel Federation, the national association for the country’s apparel industry, also recently put out a call for manufacturers that are able to assist in producing medical equipment like gowns and masks. The Hudson’s Bay Foundation is donating $500,000 each to Food Banks Canada and Kids Help Phone, and will match donations through March 31. On March 25, Canada Goose announced its plan to produce scrubs and gowns in their manufacturing facilities to be donated locally. As of April, outdoor apparel company Arc’teryx began producing 30,000 medical gowns for healthcare workers out of their facility in B.C.

Vancouver-based Lululemon announced a $2 million relief fund to help their ambassadors, who are independent entrepreneurs, to cover operating costs while they are unable to open due to COVID-19. Toronto designer Ellie Mae has also raised over $30,000 for Kids Help Phone from their limited edition accessories collection.


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