Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 29

P

IT'S UP TO YOU,

NEW YORK

A

s production director of Brooklyn, N.Y.based swimwear and apparel company Malia
Mills, Libby Mattern was all too familiar with
the dearth of trained sewers working in the U.S.
In 2018 she was inspired to establish Course of
Trade (CoT), a nonprofit that teaches industrial
sewing to New Yorkers with no previous sewing
experience, then partners with New York factories
to secure jobs for them.
"My premise as a workforce development instructor is
to ensure the next generation of sewers," Mattern says.
"I'm so passionate about this industry and the people
who work in it. It is so important that we preserve that
knowledge. If we don't train the young sewers, we won't
have a domestic workforce."
Fast-forward to 2020, as COVID-19 shut down New
York's factories, putting hundreds of garment workers
out of work.
In late April, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a
partnership with the White House, the New York
City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and
Owens & Minor, a health-care logistics company, which
provided the city with enough American-made nonwoven
polypropylene fabric to produce up to 520,800 patient
isolation gowns for hard-hit New York City hospitals and
frontline health-care workers.
The project needed factories-and sewers. With
machines "just sitting there," Mattern reached out to
the EDC to offer the services of CoT and Malia Mills as
well as Brooklyn-based partners including That's My
Girl Inc., MCM Enterprise, Direct Promotions and The
Fashion Poet.
CoT brought 300 sewers on board.
"We were told the city really needed isolation
gowns and we sprang into action to produce them,"

Libby Mattern sees her Brooklyn-based nonprofit Course of
Trade deliver three truckloads of patient isolation gowns to
New York City's hospitals each week. Photo: Course of Trade.

Mattern says. "It was an interesting learning
curve, but our factories were ready to go."
Crye Precision LLC in the Brooklyn Navy Yard worked
with CoT to develop the pattern. The trickiest bit,
according to Mattern, was learning to cut polypropylene
nonwovens, which required a special blade and low heat
to prevent melting and fusing.
"The amazing thing about our manufacturers is that
they are engineers," she says. "They will dig in and
figure it out."
Filling three 52-foot trucks every week, as of the last
week of May, CoT had shipped 180,000 patient isolation
gowns. With the contract set to run through June, the city
and state were said to be assessing the ongoing needs.
"A lot of our factories are hoping that this will transform
domestic manufacturing," Mattern says. "The EDC had
tremendous vision, not only helping to provide the city
with gowns, but keeping our factories afloat."

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Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020

Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - Cover1
Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - Cover2
Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 1
Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 2
Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 3
Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 4
Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 5
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Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 7
Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 8
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Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 10
Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 11
Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 12
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Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 16
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Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 18
Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 19
Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 20
Specialty Fabrics Review August 2020 - 21
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