SEWING MACHINES: F.A.B.R.I.C. employees pitch in to mass-produce isolation gowns for medical industry

An employee of F.A.B.R.I.C. stitches up an isolation gown. — Photo courtesy Angela Davis

Tempe-based Fashion and Business Resource Innovation Center, best known by its acronym F.A.B.R.I.C., is using its unique resources in the fight against COVID-19 by collaborating to make a half-million FDA-approved, reusable, Level 2 and 3 isolation gowns for medical professionals.

AZ Fashion Source, Falcon Engineering, Wulff Contracting, On Point Manufacturing and Katchina Apparel Manufacturing joined F.A.B.R.I.C. employees to produce the American-made and reusable isolation gowns, which can be worn and washed 100 times.

Sherri Barry, of AZ Fashion Source and cofounder of F.A.B.R.I.C., said the effort has reduced waste and minimized costs.

“With 500,000 gowns produced to date, the reusable gowns have kept 50,000,000 disposable gowns out of landfills,” Barry said. “The gowns have also helped keep costs down for health-care providers of all sizes, with a price-per-wash that is lower than a disposable gown.”

F.A.B.R.I.C., a public social cooperative enterprise that works with private industry, local government and non-profits to support apparel entrepreneurs, was praised for pivoting quickly when the pandemic hit the U.S. in March 2020.

Local donors—including the Flinn Foundation, Virginia G. Piper, Charitable Trust, Pakis Center for Business Philanthropy, Tempe Innovation Development Association, Thunderbirds Charities, BHHS Legacy Foundation, Silicon Valley Bank, PCA Skin, AZ Community Foundation and AZ Bio— supported the effort to transform FABRIC’s space into a manufacturing hub for PPE when pandemic-related shortages were widespread.

The ramped-up manufacturing effort also provided hundreds of essential manufacturing jobs and garnered a visit from President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris during their October visit to Arizona.

Proceeds from gown sales have been donated back to FABRIC Tempe, according to a spokeswoman.

The non-profit aims to support apparel entrepreneurs with equipment, training, guidance, industry resources and access to no-minimum manufacturing.

Angela Johnson, a co-founder of F.A.B.R.I.C. and F.A.B.R.I.C. Tempe, said that with the manufacturing turnaround, even more opportunity has evolved to meet the mission.

“Because of our generous donors, we believe that F.A.B.R.I.C. Tempe will help establish Arizona as a modern fashion-industry capital,” said Johnson. “Leveraging a technology-based, sustainable, closed-loop ecosystem that attracts and supports direct-to-consumer apparel brands, apparel entrepreneurs will have incredible opportunities to create, manufacture and grow their dreams.”

Information: FABRICTempe.com.

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