Ralph Lauren announced on Thursday that his charitable arm is donating $10 million to aid coronavirus relief efforts. The company is also starting production on 250,000 face masks and 25,000 isolation gowns for healthcare workers in the frontlines of the pandemic.
“At the heart of our company, there has always been a spirit of togetherness that inspires our creativity, our confidence and most importantly our support for one another. In the past weeks and months, that spirit has never wavered,” Lauren said in a statement. “We believe that no matter who you are or where you are from, we are all connected. That is why we are taking significant action to help our teams and communities through this crisis.”
The donation is the most significant so far from the American fashion industry. Earlier this week, Estée Lauder pledged a $2 million donation to Doctors Without Borders, and to use one of its factories to produce hand sanitizer for medical workers.
In Europe, where the pandemic exploded in late February, luxury labels turned over their factories to make hand sanitizer, face masks and other supplies. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is donating some 40 million face masks and Kering bought 3 million masks from China to donate to the French health service. In Italy, hospitals benefitted from a €1.25 million gift from Giorgio Armani and two complete intensive care and resuscitation units gifted by Prada.
Lauren's $10 million commitment will serve different causes, including the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Lauren is also extending financial grants through the Emergency Assistance Foundation to employees and partners who may need help covering medical, childcare and eldercare costs. And through its Pink Pony Fund, the company will continue to support cancer organizations whose patients are especially at risk at this time.
Lauren's philanthropic work in cancer care goes back at least 20 years. "I’m not a doctor; I just wanted to do what I could to help," he told Town & Country in a cover story in 2018. "For me everything is personal. I realize that over the course of 50 years you could blow it or you could stand for something."
Lauren also made an inaugural gift for an undisclosed amount to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, which has been repurposed to help out designers and brands affected by the economic toll the pandemic will extract from the industry.
"Obviously we would love to see more donations of this magnitude from companies that can afford it, but we do not underestimate the power of small donors," Tom Ford, chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America told WWD.
If @NYGovCuomo says we need masks my team will help make some. I have a full sewing team still on staff working from home that can help.— Christian Siriano (@CSiriano) March 20, 2020
Until now, American fashion's response to the Coronavirus had been led by independent designers, like Christian Siriano and Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss. Siriano Tweeted at Governor Cuomo to offer his seamstresses to make face masks, and Jean-Raymond turned over his New York studio as a donation center for supplies and other needs.
It seems the message has been heard.
In addition to Lauren, several other apparel companies, including Fruit of the Loom, Hanesbrands, Brandon Maxwell, and Prabal Gurung are stepping up to produce medical-grade masks. The National Council of Textile Organizations said these companies expect to produce some 10 million masks a week once production gets underway.
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