Healthcare workers applaud in tribute to all those in the fight against the Coronavirus in hospitals and medical centers.Applause for health care workers, New York, USA - 08 Apr 2020

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney is calling on the U.S. Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on PPE supply chain production, and is touting legislation that would require domestic production of PPE.

The New York Democrat presented these two initiatives during a virtual press event Thursday afternoon that was organized to thank the fashion industry for its COVID-19 relief efforts in producing PPE.

The aim of having the GAO conduct a study is to determine how best to stabilize the country’s supply of PPE, including harnessing American manufacturing capabilities. Maloney also spoke of a bill, the Made in America: Preparation for a Pandemic Act, that is meant to better prepare for future pandemics and to ensure that a percentage of PPE would be made in the U.S.

With more than 100,000 coronavirus deaths in the U.S., many  federal, state and local government officials — and their constituents — have criticized the lack of an infrastructure in coordinating and expediting PPE production and sourcing.

Thanking industry executives for their efforts, Maloney said. “We have a lot of work to do and we should continue doing it. When our hospitals and their workers did not have enough protective equipment, the New York fashion industry came in and supplied the necessary protective equipment that they needed. I can’t help but think how many lives we would have saved if we had been prepared from Day One with enough protective equipment for our nurses, doctors, janitors- everyone in those hospitals.”

Noting how foreign nations cannot be relied on for PPE, Maloney said, “I do not ever want to see another nurse or medical professional wearing a garbage bag because they could not get proper protective equipment.”

Maloney first joined forces with members of the New York fashion industry including designers, manufacturers and industry leaders for a roundtable discussion on the nexus between technology and fashion last year. Fashion for the Frontlines was created in March to ensure the quality of PPE for medical professionals, to provide information and resources for companies and individuals, and to help support domestic manufacturers. “Never did I imagine that this group’s focus would change so much. When the dire need for PPE became apparent, we shifted focus and formed Fashion for the Front Lines,” Maloney said.

After COVID-19 struck, the group shifted its focus to respond to the pandemic. Maloney noted how Fashion for the Frontlines was set up in partnership with Fashion Girls for Humanity, Care+Wear, local designers and the NYC Manufacturing Coalition. To date, more than 1 million non-surgical PPE isolation gowns have been distributed to hospitals and government agencies in New York City and other parts of the country.

Maloney said, “The fashion industry is known for pushing the envelope, setting trends for their creativity and that’s no different in the era of COVID-19. Now the creativity of its members is being directed toward a totally different purpose. This strength and resiliency underscores the importance of supporting small and local manufacturers, investing in New York’s fashion industry and supporting New York’s Garment District.”

Designer Kay Unger, co-chair of FFF and co-chair of Parsons Board of Governors, emphasized the need to help keep factories running and workers employed. She said, “We’re in a flat point of starting over just as we were in the Seventies.”

Julie Gilhart, a cofounder of Fashion Girls for Humanity and president of Tomorrow Consulting, echoed that sentiment. She said, “With 35 million unemployed people, there are a lot of jobs that we need to fill….One of the things we need to do is to save our fashion industry here in New York. It’s our heritage and we’ve let it go. We need to build it back up.”

Care+Wear’s cofounder and chief executive officer Chaitenya Razdan and Emmelle Designs’ Mi Jong Lee, founder of NYC Manufacturers, were also part of the virtual press event.