Ukrainian fashion industry unites to make DIY equipment protecting doctors against Covid-19

Ukrainian fashion industry unites to make DIY equipment protecting doctors against Covid-19
Ukrainian TV host Solomiya Vitvitska, who joined the team. Courtesy of Nadiia Shapoval.

1 April 2020
Image: Courtesy of Nadiia Shapoval

Last week, a medical worker in Ukraine was fired after refusing to enter a room where a patient had died of Covid-19, without being given the necessary protective equipment. Hearing this news, stylist Nadiia Shapoval reached out to the fashion community to create equipment that would protect medical staff treating Covid-19 patients.

In one week, the production team have cut 7,000 suits, which are currently being sewn. What began as a team of four friends, including stylist Sonya Soltes, events planner Kseniia Iefremova, and designer Svitlana Bevza who made the first protective suit prototype, eventually grew into a community of designers, organisers from Iefremova’s creative agency Same and Friends, and dozens of willing volunteers.

Between 200 and 300 disposable suits are made per day using laminated spun-bond fabric. At first these were handmade, but the team has since outsourced all manufacturing to a factory, where laser technology is used to cut fabric in bulk ready for designers and tailors to sew. Volunteers then distribute the suits across the Kyiv hospitals treating patients with Covid-19. The group is still trying to get medical certification for the suits.

“We’ve seen nurses come close to tears after being handed the suits because there’s literally nothing in hospitals,” Shapoval told The Calvert Journal.

Every suit is stamped with the words ‘not for sale’ to prevent reuse and commercialisation. In addition, every suit includes a card with instructions for how they should be destroyed after use (with scissors), and a statement on the local fashion community’s support for medical workers during the pandemic.

They also decided to make their paper patterns available for others. Since publishing the design template online — which come in three sizes — makers beyond Ukraine, from countries like Sweden and the United States, have joined the cause. Shapoval found this alarming. “It’s crazy that we live in the era of 5G technology, and yet people in New York are making suits to protect medical workers out of bin bags,” she says. “This initiative needs to be spread around the world because medics are suffering most.”

“For many Ukrainians, this current crisis brings to mind the Maidan protests and the ongoing war. During the Maidan revolution, there was no choice but to self-organise and fight back. When the war broke, our army was zero. We had to build it from scratch. We’ve had a lot of experience in handling crises.”

The designers involved in the initiative include Frolov, the COAT by Katya Slichenko, Bobokova, Tago, Lake and Bevza.

You can use their design template to make your own single-use protective suit here.

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