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American Design Houses Shift to Making Face Masks for the Frontline Medical Heroes of Coronavirus

Schumacher, Matouk, Rose Cumming Chintzes and More Join the Pandemic Fight

BY // 04.03.20

As PaperCity reported last week, Dallas-based designer Jean Liu was one of the first in the American design industry to answer the call to the critical shortages of masks and protective gear when she turned her Michigan-based outdoor furniture company, Woodard, into a manufacturer of non-medical-grade face masks.

Now, several preeminent design houses are pivoting their businesses in attempt to help combat the staggering global pandemic COVID-19. This comes at a crucial time, as The Washington Post reports that DHS officials say the national stockpile of masks and protective gear is nearly depleted.

Liu had already enlisted Schumacher and Kravet to donate the tightly woven cotton for the masks. Century Furniture, CR Laine Furniture, and many others also joined the initiative and are using their automated cutting machines and sizable sewing teams to produce masks.

Last week, Kravet revealed it has turned its Anderson Facilities factory into a manufacturer of face masks for medical professionals, first responders, and patients.

Schumacher has ramped up its efforts. In addition to donating 500 yards of fabric to Woodard, they have also donated 100 yards to smaller mask-making initiatives spearheaded by workrooms, clients, and collaborators. Schumacher has ramped up to make about 500 masks per day at its facility in South Carolina, and are exploring various effective distribution channels for them, including the local South Carolina community. Around 1,500 masks are shipping next week to Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

“Undisputedly, in difficult times, our number one priority is to pitch in and help this country to the best of our abilities. We are an American company through and through. We’ve been based in New York City ever since we were founded 130 years ago, and it is part of our DNA,” Schumacher’s president/CEO Timur Yumusaklar tells PaperCity.

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“In World War II, we manufactured textiles and supplies for the U.S. military, and we see the current situation as no different. We are digging in our heels to do whatever we can to help the country get to the other side of this crisis. Community has always been fundamental to who we are as a company, and in times like these we need to stick together and support one another. Together, we will make it through.”

Luxury bedding and textile company Matouk immediately began donating bedding, the product they know best, as the crisis began to unfold. They found the hospitals and temporary shelters were happy to have bedding, but were truly pleading for masks, something Matouk hadn’t realized they had the capacity to make in their Massachusetts factory.

“We thought about it for about zero minutes, and decided to dive in and do whatever we could to help. We had all hands on deck researching patterns, assessing filtration levels of different materials, doing the math on how quickly we could get these masks out the door, and creating a plan for distributing them to the people who need them,” Mindy Matouk tells PaperCity.

“N95 respirator masks and surgical grade masks, are made of  a “melt-blown” fabric that is literally unavailable on a global level.  The masks we are making are sanitary masks and are not expected to be substitutes for the N95 and other FDA approved surgical grade masks, but are intended as best possible solution in light of the crisis situation,” Matouk says. “However, we were pretty happy to find that sheeting has been identified by several sources as the best material to use, both because of its breathability and because it does filter out 60 percent of particles.

“So while these aren’t the N95’s, they are definitely effective to some degree, and they have the benefit of being reusable as they can be washed over and over. We also learned that ironing them at high heat is the most effective way to kill any virus, something you just can’t do with disposable masks.”

Matouk sent their first batch of masks to Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. a week ago, and have sent out thousands of masks to hospitals across the Northeast since, along with sheets and towels. The masks are being donated to organizations that do not have a budget, but have established a marginal price that organizations can pay if there is a budget to cover the cost of materials and labor (the more sold, the more Matouk is able to donate). Matouk is currently able to produce 3,000 masks a day and will continue to do so as long as they are needed. Matouk is also working with partners in the Philippines to produce 25,000 masks a week.

“This is something that everyone at Matouk is very proud to be a part of; I can see the pride on the faces of the women who are actually sewing the masks,” Mindy Matouk says.

Matouk sent their first batch of masks to Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C. a week ago.
Matouk sent their first batch of masks to Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. a week ago.

Heritage textile company Rose Cumming Chintzes, which is owned by Houston-based The Wells Companies, announced it shifted operation of its Plainville, Kansas, warehouse to create masks for the crisis out of Rose Cumming and Classic Cloth textiles. The masks will be distributed to the Kansas City hospital, where Rose Cumming Chintzes’ customer service manager’s daughter serves on the frontlines as a nurse.

New York-based The New Traditionalists/ducduc, a high-end furniture manufacturer with a factory in Torrington, Connecticut, has transitioned its business to support local communities with essential furniture and healthcare items. In addition, they have begun production of non-N95 face masks to be donated to local hospitals and day care centers.

“We are rapidly expanding and diversifying our manufacturing operations to meet the overwhelming needs of hospital systems nationwide to accommodate patients impacted by COVID-19,” CEO Philip Erdoes says in a statement. “Through these efforts, we can support our own manufacturing teams here in CT as well as communities nationwide.”

In addition to the masks, The New Traditionalists/ducduc is manufacturing essential products such as beds, carts, partitions/dividers, seating, daycare furniture, bins, rolling bins, masks and gowns. These products are being manufactured with laminates that are anti-microbial, bleach-cleanable, and can withstand the EPA-required cleaners used to disinfect against COVID-19.

Annie Selke, the founder behind her eponymous company, along with Dash & Albert and Pine Cone Hill, sent out a letter to their community and designer and wholesale clients, offering to donate fabric if their workrooms are currently making masks for the medical community and beyond. Selke said in closing to her clients: “Our collective brain is being rewired to accommodate our current situation, and it’s remarkable how quickly we as a culture are figuring out how to create, connect, and share beauty, humor, and insight.”

In Dallas, bespoke and upcycled furniture company The CEH is hand-sewing and donating hundreds of washable cotton masks to the medical community in Dallas and beyond. In an Instagram post, they revealed they only have fabric for 200 masks and are seeking additional fabric.

“We are donating all of our materials, labor, and may be in need of additional fabric and elastic. We will need donations from textile companies or design vendors of (ideally) new, tightly woven knot cotton fabric, please,” the post reads.

The CEH has a goal of making 3,000 masks, click here to read more and find out how you can help. “Because no medical professional should be without a mask,” as their post notes.

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