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Video: Designers and Distillers Get Creative During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By Maggie Fuller and Claudia Cardia

May 22, 2020

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illustration by Claudia Cardia

They’ve retooled their production lines and are making the hand sanitizer and masks we all desperately need right now.

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Video transcription:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re facing a shortage of crucial health and safety supplies. But across the United States, fashion designers and distillers have switched gears and are making the masks and hand sanitizer that are in such short supply.

Over 750 distillers—whether they make craft bourbon in Kentucky, gin in the Bay Area, vodka in Texas, or rum in Florida—have started to churn out high-proof alcohol for hand sanitizer. And clothing designers from Los Angeles to New York have added cotton masks, sewn with leftover fabric, to their spring lineups.

Many of these adaptable producers are small artisans and are supporting their communities by donating the sanitizer and masks they’ve made to keep local essential workers safe. Think: food bank volunteers, law enforcement officers, dentists, postal workers, restaurant employees, and more. Others are using the proceeds from the sales of these supplies to support local nonprofits, buy medical-grade protective equipment for hospitals, or to rehire and support their staff.

In a time of such uncertainty, these initiatives are raising our spirits and keeping us covered. 

Further reading

  • AFAR’s Michelle Baran investigates the current mask situation, noting important features of a good mask and highlighting some designers who are making masks we love for in-kind donations to local healthcare workers. 
  • Designers and distillers haven’t just had to figure out how to rework their production lines; they’re also having to navigate a complicated maze of federal, state, and local taxes and regulations. For a while, many distillers couldn’t call their new product “hand sanitizer.” The Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a nonprofit free-market-oriented research, education, and outreach think tank, breaks down these obstacles.  
  • It’s not just designers and distillers lending a hand. We took a close look at how the hospitality industry is contributing to COVID-19 relief efforts including making and donating meals, sheltering frontline workers and others in need, and launching fundraising campaigns.  

>>Next: How to Support Small Businesses in Italy When You Can’t Travel There

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