“They’ll pivot from sewing gowns for Macy’s to gowns for hospitals.”
Libby Mattern, who runs a non-profit called Course of Trade Course of Trade that offers free sewing instruction and job placement assistance in the garment industry, has collaborated with several companies, including Malia Mills to make thousands of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers to keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have been working with Malia Mills for the past seven year running production so between the two of us we’ve taught people and placed people,” Malia Mills’ Production Director and Founder of non-profit Course of Trade Libby Mattern told this paper. “Then when COVID-19 came, we had to pivot. I had been working with the city prior to this, through my non-profit. When I saw there was a need for sewing and a need for PPEs, i reached out and rallied a team of factories in South Brooklyn to sew isolation gowns.”
She discussed the rapid pace everyone is working to get these gowns ready for shipment.
“Our first fabric shipment was last week so everything is incoming,” Mattern said. “If you see the factories, everything is spread out on tables. Everything is getting cut. Things are on machines. Everything is in process. I just got back from making our first delivery so we have been sewing for four days so we just dropped off 3,400 gowns. That’s a small number compared to where we will be, but the beginning stages are hard because you have to get everything cut and ready to go but we are getting there
According to Mattern, the goal is to make 65,000 gowns per week.
So far, the reception has been both encouraging and heartwarming.
“It’s been incredible,” she said. “We have an incredible sleet of factories. We are working with two factories in Industry City called That’s My Girl and The Fashion Poet in addition to Malia Mills so we have three right around where our home base is on 33rd street in Brooklyn. We have two factories that we are working with at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. We are entirely South Brooklyn based.”
MUDO Fashion and Custom Sewing Services are also involved in the shift to PPE.
She added that,“One thing I can say about New York City manufacturing is that it’s an incredible group of people. They are willing to work hard when there’s a real need for it. It’s been so moving to see everyone just band together and pivot so quickly. It’s unbelievable of New York City manufacturing to just turn on a dime.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio secured the fabric being used.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) organizes where the gowns go.
“It’s very inspiring to see New Yorkers coming together to innovate and create critical PPE for our healthcare workers,” said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett in a statement. “What Course of Trade and Malia Mills are doing in Brooklyn is emblematic of the strength and resiliency of New York. We’re proud to be part of these efforts, which are getting people back to work and addressing the challenge of our lifetimes.”
Mattern also complimented the Sunset Park waterfront.
“Industry City has been amazing and they have donated warehouse space for us so we can house all the fabric that is coming in,” she said. “I have called them quite a few times saying I need two pallets moved from one side of Industry City to the other side and they drop everything to help me. It’s an amazing community of people.”