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Apparel Suppliers, Promo Companies Shift Production to Face Masks During COVID-19 Outbreak

There are a couple things companies can do in the face of adversity and uncertainty. They can give up. They can complain. Or, they can pivot. There's an old cliché that the only constant is change. So, being fluid and open to possibilities is the only way to survive when variables stack up against you.

Right now, the promotional products industry is facing a metaphorical army of variables. But apparel manufacturers have taken this opportunity not only to pivot for the sake of their business, but to do some real good to help everyone struggling right now in the U.S.

Last week, we we reported that Los Angeles Apparel offered its workforce to create face masks. It's now joined by companies like Hanes, SnugZ USA, Starline and more.

According to ABC News, Hanes is using its manufacturing facilities to make masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in conjunction with the federal government.

Clothing company Hanes to produce face masks for health care workers amid coronavirus crisis https://t.co/FDYVMb3Ceu

— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) March 23, 2020

"By way of example, Hanes [is] retrofitting manufacturing capabilities in large sections of the plant to produce masks, and they're in the process right now," President Trump said on Saturday, according to ABC News.

Hanes said it plans to manufacture 1.5 million masks every week. And it's not alone in this fight. Using Hanes' design patterns, a consortium of companies will produce up to 5 or 6 million masks weekly.

Georgia-based Nine Line Apparel is doing something similar.

"Nine Line and its U.S. manufacturing partners like Bella+Canvas are prepared to shift all operations to produce 10 million-plus masks within the coming weeks, but we need government support, as the time to validate FDA compliance is currently unknown," Tyler Merritt, CEO of Nine Line Apparel, said in a statement. "If another company can act faster and more effectively, we welcome the challenge and hope this drive for innovation spurs a realization that we cannot rely on China to manufacture life saving equipment ever again."

According to Apparel News, AST Sportswear/Bayside Apparel has designated 30 of its sewing machines usually for making T-shirts to now make cotton face masks. Last week, the company shipped 1,200 masks, and estimated a shipment of 25,000 this week to Southern California hospitals, with the possibility of growing that recipient base to Detroit, New Orleans and Alaska.

"We've been shipping out masks on UPS on our dime," AST Sportswear/Bayside Apparel CEO Abdul Rashid told Apparel News. "The demand is getting greater."

From a humanitarian standpoint, this is of course admirable. But, from a business standpoint it's also critical, because it allows certain apparel companies to stay open after states like California and New York order the shutdown of non-essential businesses.

It also gives them the ability to inject some light-heartedness and fun into a dire situation.

Region, an LA fashion brand, is making mask covers that go over surgical masks.

"When you wear [a surgical mask] and talk with another human being, it starts a panic situation," Rogiani founder Elisabetta Rogiani told Apparel News. "If you cover the mask with a fun color, it will lift spirits and help during this horrible situation. It will give you spirit to fight."


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