Mon | May 25, 2020

COVID-19 caused job cuts, then sparked revival

Published:Monday | April 6, 2020 | 12:15 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Sobrena Powell, embroidery assistant, cutting and stringing masks at Apparel Wearhouse on Red Hills Road, St Andrew.
Sobrena Powell, embroidery assistant, cutting and stringing masks at Apparel Wearhouse on Red Hills Road, St Andrew.

THE FINANCIAL downturn sparked by COVID-19 had begun to affect operations at Apparel Wearhouse, forcing the management to lay off some workers. But in an ironic twist, by last Friday evening, the global pandemic that had threatened to close down their business threw fashion designer Lilieth Edwards and her daughter, Dana Edwards, a lifeline.

They received orders for 800 reusable face masks made from fabric, forcing Dana to send out several SOS calls shortly before midnight to a few young women. By 10 o’clock Saturday morning, the sewing machines at Apparel Wearhouse were humming again as the workers went into overdrive to meet their deadline – for an entirely new line of products.

The garment manufacturer’s standard fare includes shirts, pants, dresses, and corporate uniforms, Dana explained. However, with clothes sales falling, the company has had to shift gears to start producing fabric masks to meet a growing demand for personal protective items.

Apparel Wearhouse had been fielding calls from potential clients as far back as late last month but was somewhat reluctant to go ahead in light of the debate about the effectiveness and appropriateness of masks in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“The available information was a little conflicting, but since this week, we heard more news about the potential effectiveness. Orders have been coming from all over the island and even from overseas,” Dana told The Gleaner.

Political jurisdictions have for weeks sided with medical opinion discouraging the mass wearing of face masks, but that position has gradually been eroded, with the United States following Asian and European nations in promoting general use.

By last Friday, with 800 fabric face masks on order and in anticipation of more, the mother-daughter team kick-started their new line, with Lilieth designing and cutting, and Dana placing emergency calls to all the right persons. She was, however, a little apprehensive, with Jamaica now in the middle of a weeklong nightly curfew.

“The fact that taxis and bus drivers are not really out on the road, as well as the 8 p.m. curfew, it was always going to be difficult for people to get around, but I can’t complain,” said Dana, who disclosed having to call one staffer, who does heat-pressing, “out of her bed Friday night about 11:30 and asked if she could come”.

Available in a number of styles, colours, and sizes, Apparel Wearhouse makes it clear that its reusable fabrics are not a substitute for medical masks, but offer a viable alternative for members of the public who must get around.

Options include a pleated version as well as a mask with a pocket to facilitate inclusion of a filter for extra protection – all designed to cover the nose, while fitting under the chin, to provide comprehensive protection.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com

To learn more about Apparel Wearhouse’s role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, check out their Facebook page, find them on Instagram, email info@apparelwerhouseint.com, or call 876-527-1965.