CAIRO: “Look for the helpers,” the American television icon Fred Rogers famously said, recalling advice offered by his mother for when a crisis hits. “You will always find people who are helping.”
Among Egypt’s ‘helpers’ is the Cairo-based fashion designer Lamia Rady, who has started sewing much-needed masks for medical facilities in response to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“I truly believe that it’s my duty to help my community in any way I can,” Rady — founder of contemporary clothing line Rigash — told Arab News. “I saw other international brands creating masks for hospitals in their area. So I grabbed my machine and I started sewing. I’m quarantined at home so I make them myself.”
The 25-year-old is just one of numerous people in the international fashion community who have shifted their focus to making protective clothing and medical equipment. In France, LVMH is manufacturing hand sanitizer, while New York-based designer Christian Siriano and his team created more than 1,000 washable face masks for healthcare workers in the city.
Rady, who first started making clothing when she was 13 and is self-taught, says that, at the moment, she is sewing 15 of her blue face masks every day. She has no plans to stop making them while the COVID-19 crisis is ongoing.
“The masks are made of 100-percent cotton,” she explained. “They are reusable and comfortable for users. They are designed with an adjustable nosepiece, as well as a pocket insert in order for the user to change filters when needed. Due to the high demand of masks, nurses around the world use these cloth masks on top of their N-95 masks for extra protection as they make them last longer. Patients can also use them on top of surgical masks for extra protection.” Recent research from Germany suggests that even a basic cotton mask can prevent 99 percent of the tiny drops of saliva ejected when we speak and which are one of the virus’s main methods of transmission.
According to Rady, the masks will be distributed around Egypt’s hospitals. “Initially, I was planning to distribute them (solely) to hospitals treating the virus, but I was contacted by clinics and hospitals in desperate need of cloth masks: transplant departments, university hospitals, and maternity hospitals,” she said.