COVID-19 presents a frustrating paradox: times of crisis compel solidarity and collective action, but pandemics necessitate ‘social distance.’ The most beneficial means of combating the virus’s spread feel a lot like inaction, attenuating our potential to harm rather than engaging in generative measures. It is easy to feel impotent when suffering is privatized, as we cannot, must not come face-to-face with others.
Fortunately, loopholes within this bind have been identified. Mask Crusaders, a rapidly growing initiative, provide protective equipment—including N95 masks, isopropyl alcohol, and smocks—to front line workers unable to self-isolate. The resources available to these workers are quickly depleting, and without the help of individuals and businesses, they will likely run out in a few weeks’ time. The Mask Crusaders particularly call upon artists, builders, and restauranteurs who have closed down shop to contribute; their remaining supplies of applicable materials could make a tremendous difference to people’s livelihoods.
Located in cities across the country, the initiative’s aim is to facilitate self-sufficiency, connecting donors directly to recipients. While the Crusaders give guidelines for the transfer of goods, participants are ultimately responsible for conscientiously navigating the process themselves. In effect, a network of care materializes—even if the people within the network are separated by latex gloves and a healthy six-foot distance.
In the same spirit, many fashion companies have pivoted towards the production of in-demand equipment. Inditex, home of Zara, is reconfiguring its textile factories to make hospital gowns. Los Angeles Apparel has pledged to create 300,000 masks and 50,000 gowns a week. Although lacking fast fashion companies’ capacity for mass production, luxury designers have also joined the crusade. Christian Siriano has tasked his ten seamstresses with making as many masks as possible. Balenciaga and and Saint Laurent, under the auspices of French fashion conglomerate Kering, have followed suit. These brands serve as exemplars of fashion’s humanitarian potential during crises, demonstrating transformative creativity on a vast spectrum of scale.