NYC luxury clothing maker shifts to PPE

Mountains of white, medical-grade fabric—a waterproof polyethylene—have replaced reams of colorful cashmeres and silks at Ferrara Manufacturing in Manhattan's Garment District.

Co-owner Gabrille Ferrara said Ferrara took a break from the dress forms of Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein when the city put out a call for help producing personal protective equipment in large quantities during the coronavirus pandemic

"Because we are a nimble company that has always specialized in sort of fashion week crazy runway shows, this is kind of just another runway show," she said.

But this was one show with a lot more at stake, Ferrara admitted.

"We have people that have sons and daughters that are on the front lines," she said. "So we all really feel a sense of duty and passion to really help the ppl that are in our direct community and make sure that they're safe."


The process itself is fairly straightforward. They designed a simple pattern and then added a few seams, elastic wrists, and ties on the back. The tough part was finding enough material—now in high demand worldwide—to produce gowns to scale.

"Our initial reaction was, 'We can't get the right material to do this,'" Ferrara said. "We initiated a whole search and ended up working with over 40 different suppliers to get the right material we needed."

Another complication: how to keep their own employees safe. Ferrara said they're working with about 50% staff at any given time and everyone has their temperature checked at the start of a shift.

"My brother and I went to Home Depot and bought a bunch of PVC pipes and wires so that we could design dividers between each station," she said. "We replace them every time there's a shift change."

So far with the city’s help on funding and distribution, Ferrara Manufacturing has produced 30,000 in just two weeks and plans to make five times as many.

"There's absolutely a sense of duty, and we just all banded together and put a plan in place, and thankfully we've been able to help New York City," Ferrara said. "It feels really good to wake up every morning and know that we’re helping people."


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