Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — “Do I need personal protective equipment (PPE) if I’m not a frontliner?”
It’s a question many of us have had to ask while assessing the benefits of non-medical grade protective gear vis-a-vis the science around COVID-19 that changes daily as we learn more about the virus.
Fashion designers stepped in to fill the supply gap for PPE at the start of lockdown, most notably with the initiatives like the Manila Protective Gear Sewing Club, (MPGSC) which developed an open-source PPE suit pattern for fashion houses, sewers and manufacturers to produce non-medical grade suits. The Office of the Vice President distributed these suits to various frontliners. The rationale was that if medical-grade equipment were in short supply, it was important to offer the next best thing: waterproof or water-resistant suits that offered the wearer a degree of protection from aerosolized droplets carrying the coronavirus. As of late May, MPGSC had produced and distributed nearly 3,000 suits donated to hospitals across the Philippines.
Now, several months into the lockdown, other local designers have shifted towards making non-medical grade jumpsuits and gowns of their own. These have been made commercially available as a means to keep their businesses afloat and support the sewers involved in their standard production processes while the fashion industry suffers huge losses here and the world over.
Do you need one for yourself? If you’re not a frontliner or you’re not working in close contact with others for extended periods of time, the short answer is no. For a disease that is primarily transmitted through droplets carried through air and shared surfaces, the current World Health Organization guidelines say face masks, constant sanitization, minimized movement and strict social distancing should suffice.
These suits are not without some benefit, though. You can minimize exposed skin while going out for essential errands and, if you remove and sanitize the suits correctly, have a better chance of keeping virus droplets out of your home afterwards. As with other garments, perhaps it can be argued that these suits come with a psychological benefit for the wearer as well — a reminder on your body that there’s something you need to be protecting yourself against. In the best case scenario, it can maybe make the wearer more vigilant of the risks present in their environment.
Finally, it is a meaningful way to support people at every level of the fashion industry who’ve lost income during the pandemic (if you are able to). Here are some of the designers who are producing protective microfiber suits that you can purchase.
Sylvia Borja (lovingly referred to as Owa Sylvia) is a veteran designer who works with a small team of three to produce no-nonsense, universally flattering protective jumpsuits with the option for custom embroidery on the breast pocket. The jumpsuits are hand-cut and sewn and come in pink, blush, navy, black and butter microfiber for a retail price for ₱1,500. They’re available again on a pre-order basis on August 18 via @owasylvia on Instagram.
Best known for their swimwear, EIKA shifted to producing affordable masks, bunny suits and isolation gown sets starting at ₱499. EIKA offers a range of colors for the sets that come with shoe covers for added protection. The bunny suits are easy to put on and take off, thanks to the velcro opening down the front. While the suit is currently sold out, their online store shows a handful of other protective items.
Vania Romoff brings her affinity for elegant silhouettes to her Essentials Collection of protective outerwear sets in ivory, olive, tan and white. Most notably, the coats come with a hood and a charming frilled shoulder detail. Prices start at ₱3,250 for an individual coat, and though the pieces are currently sold out, you can stay on the lookout for possible restocks on their online store.
If you want protective gear with its own built-in mask, Rosenthal Tee has developed the Ninja topcoat and joggers set as well as a jumpsuit, both in black. An extended cowl can be zipped up to double as a “ninja” mask to cover your nose and mouth. Course inquiries and orders through the brand’s Instagram @rosenthaltee.
While they’re still in the prototype stage as of this writing, Randolf is creating protective gear in the brand’s characteristic crayon color palette. Their jumpsuit comes in a playful orange and steel blue while the gown is a more muted powder blue and caramel, both with slanted garterized waistbands for that extra cinch. Stay tuned for pre-orders via their Instagram @randolfclothing.
With the Armor Project, Mark Bumgarner has created a range of jumpsuits, jacket dresses and bomber and joggers sets in a range of comfortable and chic silhouettes and prints. These incorporate floral patterns and woven patches to give the look a little extra flair. Orders and prices are up on their online store.