A group of students in Prague are using surplus and deadstock fabric to supply masks to those in need of them

Through coronavirus, the fashion industry has been hit on a multitude of levels. Not only have the gatherings which keep the industry turning been cancelled (including the entire fashion weeks and, worse yet, the Met Ball), but a growing number of retailers are opting to close their doors and potentially facing a loss in sales.

Although what’s happening currently feels quite bleak, admist the chaos more and more stories of people using their talents and creativity to help others are emerging. Among them are the students, established designers, and others with access to a sewing machine who have begun to manufacture face masks – an amenity which is becoming more and more sought after as the world pandemic worsens.

In Prague’s Academy of Arts, Architecture & Design’s studios, a number of students have so far crafted hundreds of face masks. Sending them out to ‘hospitals, retirement homes, volunteers or any other people in need,’ the initiative was put into place after the government issued an order that everyone should wear face masks but neglected to actually provide them.

“During this weekend some hospitals in Czech Republic started to ask for face masks (even handmade) on social media,” says Alice Klouzková, an assistant at the university. “Because our fashion design students and fashion designers can sew and many have small workshops with sewing machines, they answered the request and began to help.”

“Our fashion design students and fashion designers can sew and many have small workshops with sewing machines, they answered a request for masks and began to help” – Alice Klouzková

With being caught on public transport without a mask in the region now a public offence, London-based label Adva also acknowledged the current situation in Prague. “Part of our wholesale business is in Prague and the situation over there, in terms of supply of face masks, is catastrophic,” explains Aneta Pruskova, the brand’s creative director.

Following in the footsteps of Prague’s Academy of Arts, Architecture & Design, the womenswear brand has “already decided to make face masks for people outside and have the capacity to make face masks for medical use also,” Pruskova continues.

Elsewhere, designer Phoebe English is also using her position to help. Taking to Instagram, English posted a picture of a textblock alongside a caption which asked “Can we make masks for you? We have machinery that can be of use to make additional face masks.”

With others who work in the fashion industry following suit, Allison Ozeray, a seamstress and freelance designer from Paris is also planning to make masks, which she will distribute locally and to medical organisations. “I had the feeling of being useless in front of all of it,” she says. “If we all help in our own way and skills things will change and improve.”

In times of uncertainty we should not underestimate the creative industries ability to encourage change and help others. “We strongly believe in fashion as a medium or a tool of social responsibility that can improve our lives in many positive ways,” Klouzková says. “In our Fashion Design Studio we try to respond to the fact that future employment for our graduates is going to change, more designers will have to work on projects related to health care or care for the elderly people. But it is striking that this challenge came to us so suddenly and soon!”

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