Sustainable Initiative Diverts 20M Gowns from Landfill, Supporting Nearly 200 Jobs During Pandemic
FABRIC, with the support of the 501(c)(3) non-profit, AZ Apparel Foundation (AAF), has manufactured 200,000 FDA-approved reusable, level 2 and 3 isolation gowns for Arizona medical professionals. This amazing manufacturing milestone was made possible when FABRIC assembled a team in March to take on the growing PPE shortage for large and small healthcare facilities and the Navajo Nation. Simultaneously, AZ Apparel Foundation partnered with local foundations to raise the funds necessary to fill these emergency needs. Working with an FDA consultant, doctors, Arizona Commerce Authority's Manufacturing Extension Partnership (AZMEP), and funds from AAF’s donors, FABRIC converted its fashion show catwalk to a PPE factory and pivoted its mission. As a result, Reusa ™, the PPE division of FABRIC was born.
“Pivoting from helping support hundreds of apparel startups to creating an American-made, sustainable alternative to disposable PPE, has enabled FABRIC to successfully and sustainably mitigate the state’s PPE shortage and provide essential jobs during the pandemic” says FABRIC Co-Founder Sherri Barry. “This pivot not only provides a solution to this immediate emergency need, it provides a long-term solution for retaining business and attracting a new and exciting industry to our state by reshoring apparel manufacturing, as well as solving supply chain issue realized during the shutdown.”
FABRIC’s focus has always been on sustainable fashion. So with that in mind, the reusable gowns can be worn and washed 100 times, which is equivalent to keeping 20 million disposable gowns out of the landfill.
Support has been provided by Flinn Foundation, Virginia G. Piper, Charitable Trust, Pakis Center for Business Philanthropy, Tempe Innovation Development Association, Thunderbirds Charities, BHHS Legacy Foundation, Silicon Valley Bank, PCA Skin, AZ Community Foundation, and AZ Bio. This allows the AZ Apparel Foundation to acquire the equipment necessary to ramp up PPE manufacturing efforts at FABRIC and to secure even more PPE from additional sources.
Support provided by AZ Commerce Authority’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership enabled FABRIC to set up four unique, lean, socially distanced, production lines on FABRIC’s fashion show catwalk. The ACA’s support also helped to recruit more than 60 additional team members growing the FABRIC staff from approximately 20 to over 80 employees in a few months. FABRIC has also taken four additional factories under its wing, provided guidance to ramp up, and partnered on filling orders. As of today, FABRIC has created nearly 100 additional jobs at the Tempe location and the combined factories are supporting over 200 new essential jobs.
These gowns are a sustainable and affordable alternative to disposable PPE. They can be washed 100 times making the per-use price lower than a disposable gown, including the price-per-wash, and they are supplied to the healthcare facility directly from the manufacturer and not from a wholesale supplier. Like offshore apparel manufacturing, disposable PPE was clearly a tired solution for a modern problem. What doctors, nurses, first responders and healthcare workers needed was not just more PPE, but better, modern, sustainable, reusable isolation gowns that were made domestically.