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Fashion sense: designers to dress Pakistan doctors fighting COVID-19

Asim Jofa and Maheen Khan come forward to volunteer, donate

SAMAA | - Posted: Apr 2, 2020 | Last Updated: 2 years ago
Posted: Apr 2, 2020 | Last Updated: 2 years ago

The prototype developed by Asim Jofa with doctors from JPMC in Karachi.

Pakistani fashion designers are pitching in with their textile prowess by volunteering to make protective personal equipment to help medical staff fighting coronavirus on the frontlines.

One of the first designers to step forward is red carpet designer Asim Jofa. “We have successfully created a final a prototype of a medical protective suit made according to the guidelines provided by medical experts,” Jofa tweeted March 28. The self-protection suits and masks will be distributed free of cost. The designs have been approved by JPMC Executive Director Dr Seemin Jamali.

Dr Jamali told SAMAA Digital that a team of doctors were sent to Jofa to conduct a workshop on PPE. “The protective suits prepared by Jofa meets all medical criteria that we need right now,” she said.

Jofa’s PPE will only be available for JPMC doctors for now in Karachi, added Dr Jamali. JPMC is a tertiary-case teaching hospital that serves a wide catchment area. It opened its own isolation ward and is treating COVID-19 patients. Dr Jamali said they have been receiving donations from doctors, citizens and the Sindh government. “We can’t afford to lose our doctors, we are just like a family,” she said.

Shortage of protective gear is now being felt in many hospitals around the country as the number of patients testing positive for the potentially deadly coronavirus continues to increase.

So far, two doctors in Punjab and five doctors in Sindh have tested positive. People were dismayed to learn that the first death was of 26-year-old Dr Usama Riaz in Gilgit Baltistan on May 22.

Suiting up
Asim Jofa is not the only designer who has offered to help.

On March 29, Maheen Khan, one of the business’s biggest names, requested the Sindh government to grant her permission to open her workshop for the mass production of safety masks. “We request the relevant authorities to consider this an emergency and allow us to open our workshops in a small shift, enforcing proper protocols for safety and health purposes,” she tweeted. “We the designers in Pakistan are ready to contribute our workforce.” She tagged designer Deepak Perwani.

Earlier, director of Umer Textile, Umer Hussain, announced that he will be making free protective suits for medics and will be distributing them only to government hospitals with quarantine centres. Sharing progress on his Facebook account, he said that around, “8,000 protective suits are in cutting in two days and we will be able to produce at least 1,000 a day with one unit!”

But as some brands discovered, customers are in no mood to congratulate anyone trying to turn a profit. Brand Lulusar got a taste of the backlash on social media after they announced and posted pictures of their new medical safety with a price tag of Rs1,999. 

“We are trying our best to make the suit as affordable as possible for all,” said Lulusar’s Director Fawad Shah Gardezi. “The material we are using to make the medical suit is waterproof, reusable and imported from abroad which is why it is a little expensive.”  He remarked that they are are are also trying to make the disposable gowns which will cost less as compared to this one.

He mentioned that they had done their homework and all suits were up to proper medical standards. “The suits are being sent to the NDMA since we cannot sell them without getting approval first,” said Gardezi.

Lulusar has not launched the suit as yet because the government has extended the lockdown for another ten days.

Apart from Lulusar, many online pages, Facebook groups and online retailers are also selling the gear.

The world’s most renowned fashion brands have volunteered to temporarily shift their specialization and produce crucial goods to help their countries fight COVID-19. Prada is making masks for Italian doctors. LVMH, the company that owns a number of brands including Louis Vuitton and Céline, is manufacturing sanitizers for French hospitals.

New cuts

Personal Protective Equipment consists of goggles, a face-shield, a mask, gloves, coverall/gowns (with or without aprons), headcovers and shoe covers.

Coveralls or gowns are designed to protect the torso of healthcare providers from exposure to the virus. They typically provide 360-degree protection because they cover the whole body, including back and lower legs and sometimes head and feet as well. Isolation gowns do not provide continuous whole-body protection (e.g., possible openings in the back, coverage to the mid-calf).

By using appropriate protective clothing, it is possible to create a barrier to eliminate or reduce contact and droplet exposure, both known to transmit COVID-19, thus protecting healthcare workers working in close proximity (within 1 meter) of a suspect or confirmed case.

Gowns are easier to put on and remove. An apron can be worn over the gown for the entire time. Coveralls and gowns have stringent standards that extend from preventing exposure to biologically contaminated solid particles to protecting from chemical hazards.

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