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No Scrubs? Meet the fashion designer with the material to help

Written by on 6 avril 2020

The UK’s national health service is struggling to provide enough scrubs to its frontline workers. A London fashion designer is assembling an army of sewers to help.

Elliss Solomon is not used to working quickly. Her eponymous label prides itself on its slow-fasion credentials. Each ELLISS collection is meticulously crafted using only natural fabrics and dies. At a family run factory based in Slovenia, all offcuts and threads from the manufacturing process are recycled, to be used as mattress fillers or for insulation. 

But when the pandemic hit, Elliss’s priorities changed.

Last week she launched ‘Scrub Up’, an initiative to help fill the urgent need for hospital gowns for frontline heathcare workers. Along with her collaborator Pietro Fareri, the British fashion designer has created a simple pattern for a pair of scrubs and instructions on how to make them at home. Unlike similar initiatives, Elliss claims that anyone can sew her pattern “from a novice, to someone who is more experienced and who wants to make multiples”.

ELLISS collections directly address issues around climate change.

To bulk produce medical grade PPE, Elliss had to make some compromises: “I normally only work with organic and recycled materials so it is difficult for me to order fabric that is less positive for the environment. But I think in this situation it’s about the people on the front-line and getting something out to them that’s durable, quickly.”

“Although any scraps we’ll be turning into caps and facemasks, so we won’t be wasting any fabric,” she quickly adds.

Scrub Up volunteers have gotten straight to work making PPE since Elliss put out the call last week.

The north-Londoner founded her company in 2016, fresh from her degree at Central Saint Martins in womenswear fashion. It didn’t take long for her tongue-in-cheek prints and sustainable ethos to quickly mark Elliss out as one to watch. In 2019, ELLISS collaborated with Selfridges, creating a bespoke collection for the London department store.

The designer says she was encouraged to act after receiving a message on Instagram from one her clients, whose father is a doctor in a hospital struggling to cope from a shortage of PPE. Before the pandemic, Elliss was due to launch a new collection, but orders have dried up as uncertainty leaves people unwilling to spend money on “frivoulous” purchases, she tells me. So when the call for help came, she had plenty of time on her hands.

North London fashion designer Elliss Solomon.

Scrub Up’s Facebook group with instructions on how to manufacture the gowns, has gained over 600 members in the past week. Elliss tells me that dozens of deliveries have already been made to hospitals in different parts of the UK.

The group launched just two days after the major fashion house Burberry announced that its trench coat factory in Yorkshire was being re-purposed to make PPE. Other fashion labels such as Dior in France and Armani in Italy have also begun manufacturing much needed supplies for hospitals. 

Though Elliss normally tries to provide a sustainable alternative to these big brands, she is nevertheless positive about their contribution. Individuals and small labels can only produce so much and “if big companies have money and the facilities to make larger batches then I think that’s great,” she says.  

However when I ask the designer whether she thinks these companies will take a more active interest in communities post-pandemic, she isn’t so optimistic. “I would hope so but I don’t know,” Elliss says. “I hope that people will take this time and reflect on the way that things have been working, but I also know that businesses want to make money.”

Burberry previously burned the clothes it did not sell, only stopping the practice after being heavily criticised for destroying £28m worth of products in 2017. Meanwhile, a recent investigation by The New York Times revealed that big companies like LVMH continue to exploit of cheap labour in India to manufacture items for luxury brands like Dior. Right now, big companies can sew up the biggest holes in PPE supplies. But it is small grassroots initiatives across Europe, like ‘Scrub Up’ or its French equivalent ‘Fais Une Blouse’, that may end up providing more compelling models for future corporate responsibility.

Si vous êtes vous-même tenté par l’idée de coudre une blouse pour votre hôpital local, voici les liens utiles pour vous rediriger vers les initiatives mentionnées dans cet article :

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SCRUBUP/

https://www.faisuneblouse.com/


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