Luxury fashion conglomerate Kering SA said it would switch to producing surgical masks at the French workshops of its Balenciaga and Saint Laurent brands as the country ramps up its efforts to contain the coronavirus.
Both brands will start making the masks for French hospitals as soon as they have the approval of health authorities, Kering said in a statement. In the meantime, the group will donate 3 million masks ordered from China.
The production sites include Saint Laurent’s ready-to-wear factory in the city of Angers and Balenciaga’s Paris workshop, a Kering spokeswoman said.
The French health ministry announced Sunday that the epidemic was “continuing to spread and to worsen.” There were 16,018 confirmed coronavirus cases and 674 deaths in the country nearly a week after it imposed a lockdown for citizens.
Saint Laurent and Balenciaga are two of France’s most well known fashion houses. Both have enjoyed rapid growth in recent years selling items like 950 euro YSL crossbody bags and Triple S sneakers for 750 euros a pair. Shares in Kering have tumbled more than 30% since the year began as regional lockdowns and travel restrictions led to an economic downturn that’s frozen luxury demand.
Other major companies have also jumped in to help. Luxury giant LVMH has switched to producing sanitizing hand gel in factories that normally make its Christian Dior and Givenchy cosmetics and perfume. Airbus brought 2 million masks to Europe from China, the company said on a conference call.
The majority will go to European governments, with some for its own employees.
Gucci, Kering’s largest brand, is seeking approval from health authorities in Italy to produce more than 1 million surgical masks.