Filipino designers create protective gear for medical workers in need

Published March 27, 2020, 12:36 PM

by MB Lifestyle


In the second installment of the Cloverfield movie franchise, people saw the character portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead survive a pandemic that came from the sky and a tragedy brought by men.

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Photo from 10 Cloverfield Lane

There is one scene in the film where she designed in secret a hazmat suit to use when she sets out to see what has happened to the world.

This scene is becoming too familiar everywhere in the world. As personal protective equipment (PPEs) are running short, people are finding ways to cope just to protect themselves from getting infected by the disease.

This is where the fashion industry sees a calling: to sew and produce protective gear to help combat Covid-19.

Globally, designers and fashion houses are working with their respective national governments. Here in the Philippines, the same scenario is played out as industry creatives join hand in hand in prayer and in providing protection for our medical professionals from head to toe.

Designers respond to the call

Over the weekend, fashion designer Mich Dulce called the industry to help create protective suits and masks for healthcare workers and frontliners. Now with more than a thousand volunteers, Manila Protective Gear Sewing Club is on a mission to produce the PPEs. This was made possible with the help of Cynthia Diaz and Vice President Leni Robredo, who donated PPE samples after which to pattern the club’s work.

Other fashion designers followed suit — Michael Leyva, Patty Ang, Puey Quiñones, and Rajo Laurel as they produce sets of hazmat suits, some in color and with a designer’s touch, to be donated to health workers.


Photo courtesy of Patty Ang


Photo courtesy of Puey Quiñones


Photo courtesy of Michael Leyva

Others like Avel Bacudio, Marlon Tuazon, Santi Obcena, and Amina Aranaz produce washable face masks.


Photo courtesy of Aranaz


Photo courtesy of Marlon Tuazon


Photo courtesy of FIP Subic

Design school Fashion Institute of the Philippines Subic tasked its students to make face shields and masks for their course project. While lava gown designer Mak Tumang calls for cash donation as he and his team are importing PPEs for distribution to frontliners.

There was information shared that the suits we designers can make are medical grade. No designer can ever make a medical grade suit in their factory! This assumption is so dangerous and irresponsible. –Mich Dulce

How reliable are these PPEs?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement that what health workers need are N95 respirator masks, which filter out 95 percent of airborne particles. As for the suits, they require a sterile environment and a number of tests to ensure it is fit for medical operations.

There is information spreading online saying makeshift protection gear made by designers are not up to standards for medical use. In light of this, Mich clarifies that they do not claim that the suits are medical grade.


Photo courtesy of Mich Dulce

“There was information shared that the suits we designers can make are medical grade. Please do not circulate this! I’ve been saying from the start and it says in our techpack that these are non-medical grade suits. No designer can ever make a medical grade suit in their factory! This assumption is so dangerous and irresponsible,” says Mich. “While the use of our patterns and techpack are medically reviewed to be the best version of a DIY suit, it will never be medical grade. These are two different things. To be medical grade they need to be made in a sterile environment and have to pass so many tests.”

The designers are making suits out of materials that are the best alternative to medically-approved fabrics for suits. They also advise that the suits are to be used as a layer of protection, “as some of them are now using raincoats and garbage bags.”


Photo courtesy of Tes Depano

These PPEs are constructed as a better and durable alternative. The designers are trying their best to produce protection gear that are close to medically-graded suits and masks.

“Everyone has been researching in their own way to make sure it meets standards. I’ve personally been asking doctor friends,” says fashion designer and volunteer Twinkle Ferraren. “Another friend who’s donating to a Los Baños hospital has been coordinating with her doctor friends as well for the standards. We cannot and we are not claiming it’s medical grade, but the doctors are saying (the ones we’ve been talking to) that those would be good for now.”

Medical grade or not, it doesn’t mean that the efforts of Filipino designers should be disregarded, or worse, be called false help. We all are making  what we can do under the circumstances.

Sending in donation

With a large number of volunteers, the Manila Protective Gear Sewing Club has now more sewers than materials to use.

Here’s the list of materials they need to make the protective gear:

  • Water repellent fabrics such as umbrella material, poly microfiber, and taffeta to be used for reusable protective suits

  • Non-woven materials (50gsm up) can also be used for disposable protective suits and masks filters

  • Zippers 26 inches or longer

  • Garter or elastics.

Those who would like to help can join Manila Protective Gear Sewing Club group or reach out to Rajo Laurel and Patrice Ramos Diaz on Facebook. Contact Cynthia Diaz (0917-866-2496) for material and fabric donations. Those donating in cash can deposit it via BPI Savings account, Stephanie Tan 416-959-1143, and GCash 0906-474-6084.