Designer Brandon Maxwell Makes Masks, Gowns For Health Care Workers Facing Shortages

Download Audio
Masks by designer Brandon Maxwell (Courtesy)
Masks by designer Brandon Maxwell (Courtesy)

Fashion designer Brandon Maxwell and his team are creating face masks and hospital gowns for health care workers on the frontlines of fighting the coronavirus.

Known for designing gowns and dresses for stars like Lady Gaga and Megan Markle, some might also know Maxwell for his appearance as a judge on recent seasons of “Project Runway.” Two weeks ago, his team of seamstress and pattern makers set up work from home studios — and decided to make key medical supplies.

“Many people actually in our office, their families work in the medical field. And we identified sort of early on that they would be needing supplies,” he says. “So we have really diligently been working towards doing our best to help where we can.”

Along with his 12 in-house employees and a few volunteers, Maxwell hopes to push out 750 masks and 60 to 100 gowns per week.

Pantone reached out and donated cotton balls that the company uses to swatch colors. The “familial” fashion community is helping the team figure out how to best make supplies by providing patterns, resources and ideas, he says.

“We've just been really grateful and blessed for everybody who has given us information,” he says. “And we've also really, I think, come together as a group during this time and that's been really comforting.”

Last week, he says the team started by making prototypes of breathable gowns and mask covers with protective filters inside.

A gown by designer Brandon Maxwell (Courtesy)
A gown by designer Brandon Maxwell (Courtesy)

The team first decided to make gowns, he says — but finding the fabric wasn’t easy. The material they initially used wasn’t breathable enough, so now they're waiting to receive a different medical-grade fabric.

In the meantime, the team is using Pantone’s 100% cotton to create mask covers. Maxwell says he would love to include air filters for an added layer of protection.

On top of making medical supplies, all of the company’s factory production has to be done in-house to meet its needs — and Maxwell says he’s “amazed” by how much time his staff is putting in.

“Outside of these ‘traditional work hours,’ we see everyone putting in extra time just with their hearts to meet these needs,” he says.

The company’s contribution to the coronavirus crisis doesn’t stop with necessities in short supply: Maxwell is also giving away three wedding gowns to women who have been financially impacted.

On top of the gown, these brides will complete their wedding day looks with veils from milliner G.I.G.I. Burris, rings from jewelry designer Eva Fehren and the help of celebrity stylist Micaela Erlanger.

“We have prided ourselves as a company on playing a small part in women's special days,” he says. “Everybody has come together when we launched this to basically give an incredible, 360-day package to three women who have been affected by this crisis.”

Marcelle Hutchins produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Kathleen McKennaAllison Hagan adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on April 1, 2020.


Robin Young Co-Host, Here & Now
Robin Young brings more than 25 years of broadcast experience to her role as host of Here & Now.


Allison Hagan Digital Producer, Here & Now
Allison Hagan is a digital producer for Here & Now.



More from Here & Now

Listen Live