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Times are tough, and that’s why the textile and fashion industries continue to band together — through partnerships, the creation of requisite PPE, social justice organizations and the like — to assist in the global fight against COVID-19.

And that includes Cone Denim, which recently announced that a portion of its loom capacity has transitioned to produce Maxima medical fabrics for its sister division, Burlington.

Steve Maggard, president, Cone Denim, said being a “part of the larger Elevate Textiles family has opened many opportunities for Elevate’s brands including Cone, Burlington and American & Efird to collaborate and innovate to better serve apparel brands and others within the textile and apparel industry who are stepping up to produce life-saving PPE.”

“The Cone and Burlington technical teams have been working closely to quickly transition a portion of looms in our Cone Denim Yecapixtla operation in Mexico to produce Burlington medical fabrics. Production is set to ramp up in June,” he added.

Maxima medical fabrics are engineered with specific yarns and constructions to provide the highest level of proven protection, durability and comfort, based on levels for specific standards, Burlington said, adding that its fabrics are reusable, which adds another level of assurance of availability for PPE and provides a more sustainable solution longer-term.

Maggard continued, “The denim industry is working in many ways to support our frontline heroes and communities. Cone is proud to be a part of such a compassionate community and glad to utilize the skills and talents of our employees to meet this critical need. At the same time, we are available to service our denim customers as retail starts to reopen and global demand for denim increases.”

And Burlington said it also partnered with Tilley Endurables, a Canadian headwear company, to provide essential isolation gowns for health-care workers for our neighbors up north, with its aforementioned Maxima line of medical fabrics.

Tilly, which focuses on making hats for the outdoor community, has had various partnership opportunities with Burlington over the years, “but found a new connection amidst a global pandemic when Tilley pivoted its idle sewing capacity from hats to medical isolation gowns,” according to Burlington.

Allen Smith, president, Burlington, Safety Components & A&E, Americas, said, “Burlington is proud to be a part of an industry with such compassion and call to action as we have seen in the fight against COVID-19. The scarcity of PPE, due to the COVID-19 crisis, has reinforced the importance of reusable PPE, and we are pleased to offer our expertise to support Tilley as they step up to produce lifesaving isolation gowns.”

Cone Denim Jeans

Cone Denim has retooled its operations to help produce Burlington’s Maxima medical fabric. Photo courtesy of Cone Denim.  Courtesy

Tilley’s chief executive officer, Andrew Prendergast, said the firm had no knowledge of how to make isolation gowns prior to COVID-19. “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put out a national call in mid-March for all companies who could make personal protective equipment to register with the Canadian government. We had just halted our sewing operations and furloughed 80 percent of our employees.”

“While we did not have direct knowledge of how to make isolation gowns, we were confident in the skills of our employees to pivot from hats to PPE with the right resources. We started working directly with Toronto East Health Network to create a new isolation gown. It was a fascinating process and moved extremely quickly.”

After a series of conversations and phone calls, Tilly eventually hooked up with Burlington to use its Maxima medical fabrics.

“Protective fabrics are in short supply, so we set out to find a suitable fabric. In talking with our elastic supplier American & Efird, they shared that a sister company within their own Elevate Textiles group was supplying another Canadian brand with medical fabrics. Our operations director put in a call, which connected us with a sales representative from Burlington — a familiar name and trusted supplier of fabrics to us,” Prendergast explained.

The companies said the process of designing its isolation gown prototype also involved EcoTex, a provider of laundry and linen services, who provided fabric specifications and patterns.

And a mere eight weeks later, they had a prototype gown. Predergast continued, “The prototype gown made from Burlington’s Maxima fabric was completed, tested and approved by the hospital, and immediately put into production. Toronto Health’s support has been tremendous in trusting Tilley to deliver the same quality and care in gowns that we do in our hats — and they continue to champion our gowns and Burlington’s fabric every day.”

To date, Tilley has produced more than 5,000 isolation gowns, primarily supplying long-term health facilities within the Toronto East Health Network and more recently, dental facilities, according to the companies.

And designers, too, continue to help move the mission forward. Sonia Carrasco, an eponymously named sustainable fashion brand based in Spain, said it’s been making masks — utterly stylish masks that feature an opening for a filter, and come in three two-tone colors — with leftover fabrics from its spring 2020 collection.

Its Upcycled Face Mask is made of 100 percent cotton, and proceeds will be donated to a program run by Fundació Ared, a civil and social rights nonprofit organization, to help female victims of domestic violence.

For more Business news from WWD, see:

Outdoor Brands Talk Coronavirus Impacts

Brick-and-Mortar, Digital Retailers Adjust Strategies in Wake of Coronavirus

Field Notes: How Fabric Is Helping Save the Planet

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