Fashion designers, Vice President's office create open-source protective suit design

MANILA, Philippines – When a crisis is at hand and resources are hard to come by, it only makes sense for groups from different fields to come together and find a solution.

That’s exactly what happened when the Office of the Vice President (OVP) turned to Filipino fashion designers for help in producing personal protective equipment (PPEs) for medical frontliners in the coronavirus pandemic.

“It took us more than 48 hrs of going back & forth – until this afternoon, we got word that, finally, our prototype has been approved!” said Robredo in a series of tweets on Sunday, March 29. 

The Vice President praised Filipino fashion designers, calling them “today’s silver lining” after a prototype for protective suits was approved by both local and international experts.

The approved design uses Taffeta Silver Back Lining and was made by Joey Socco. (Click here to download the patterns)

In an Instagram post, designer Mich Dulce also announced the good news by sharing a screenshot of the “happiest Zoom call of [her] life.”

“First suit APPROVED FOR DOCTOR'S USE with direct & critical exposure to patients by Infectious Disease Specialist and Chief Medical Officer of The Medical City Sta Rosa Laguna Dr. Jesus Julio Ancheta!!!!!!! The first suit was made by Joey Socco and her team with Tafetta SBL chosen and donated by family and friends of Dr. Reina Diane Tajonera and Dothy Atienza using our patterns and techpack.”

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Mich Dulce (@michdulce) on Mar 29, 2020 at 4:02am PDT

Over 48 hours

Infectious disease expert Dr Jesus Julio Ancheta was among those who checked the prototype and materials that would be used for the suit. The suit was also “medically reviewed” in Berkeley, California, USA.

Robredo said that she made calls to designers a few days ago, “amid the volume of requests and challenges in sourcing PPEs.” Globally, supplies of PPEs have been short due to the pandemic. The OVP has been helping hospitals secure masks and other PPEs by soliciting donations, among other projects, to aid medical frontliners.

According to Robredo, it was Dulce who was among the first to answer. Dulce then tapped fellow designers who immediately committed to the project, which later became the Manila Protective Gear Sewing Club.

In one day, they came up with a pattern for the project, which was then checked in Berkeley. At the same time, Medical City South Luther President Cesar Espiritu linked the OVP to Ancheta.

The material first suggested for use was Tyvek, which isn’t that common in the Philippines. Another doctor, Reina Tajonera, suggested the use of Tafetta Silver Back Lining for the suit.

The pattern is available for download on Google Drive and is, so far, in size large. The team will be making small and medium options, with a 2-piece suit to make it easier to take bathroom breaks.

Dulce also encouraged those with the means to produce the suits to use the pattern and added: “For everyone who is making using other fabrics, don't worry. They can still be allocated to other health workers/staff appropriately! Let's just all KEEP MAKING what we can!!!!!”

Dulce had earlier clarified that while the suit was approved for use by medical professionals exposed to patients with the coronavirus, it is not a medical-grade suit, because the term requires production using sterile equipment in a sterile environment.

The fashion industry is only one of many that have been mobilizing and tapping into their field of expertise to help solve the crisis caused by the pandemic in the Philippines. On the day the prototype was approved, the Philippines tallied over 1,400 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 71 deaths and 42 recoveries. – Rappler.com