Essential health care workers aren’t forgotten.
In fact, luxury designers are finding inspiration in solving the scrubs debacle with newfound sustainable and fashionable alternatives. Rachel Rothenberg-Saenz and Alexandra Baylis, who previously held design roles at Oscar de la Renta, decided to launch “purpose wear” brand Welles Tuesday after being inspired by the essential workers who kept people safe amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Health care is one of the fastest-growing and largest workforces in the USA, with the vast majority having to wear a uniform and for the most part, purchasing it themselves,” Welles cofounder Rachel Rothenberg-Saenz said to WWD. “This line of work calls for clothing that offers high performance, stretch and durability, to be worn for extended periods of time. The pandemic has shone a light on just how underserved the health care workforce has been with uniforms.”
Welles is a direct-to-consumer brand of clothing catered to modern health care professionals priced between $44 to $148 for its debut collection of scrubs in 10 colorways including black, sky blue, coral and more. Sizes range from XS to 3XL with petite and long inseams for pants also available.
Welles partners with Oeko Tex-certified factories in the U.S., Asia and Central America and avoids the use of harmful “forever chemicals” or PFAs.
Products are made with a proprietary fabric blend called “Terral-X” (made from recycled polyester and viscose) for softness and breathability. The material has a few notable features, including its Bluesign-certified antimicrobial finish. What makes the fabric different is a biotechnology process called “CiCLO” meant to enhance the fiber’s performance and aid in biodegradation at the end of its life cycle. While the fabric blend (and garment packaging) will biodegrade — per the brand’s third-party testing — the remaining 4 percent spandex in the garments will not.
“But not for long,” Rothenberg-Saenz said. “We are trialing a biodegradable alternative to spandex that is coming to the market in 2023, and will replace all of our current spandex next year. Spandex or elastane is essential to give the fabric the much needed stretch.”
The cofounders previously launched two other companies — including a nonprofit called Garment District for Gowns and a for-profit firm called Goldatech (producing PPE), at the request of New York State.