Christian Siriano Steps Up to Make Face Masks Against COVID-19

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday March 23, 2020

While the government continues its belated and unsteady approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic, the American people are doing what they do in times of crisis: Stepping up. Openly gay fashion designer Christian Siriano volunteered to do his part with a tweet in which he extended an offer to Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, to manufacture face masks as a response to fears that medical workers grappling with the coronavirus outbreak might not have enough, reports BuzzFeed News.

The 34-year-old designer reportedly is providing the masks free of charge. Siriano told Harper's Bazaar he was helping out just because he can.

"I am just in a unique scenario where I manufacture everything in New York already, I have a working atelier and everyone's working from home, and my office is a townhouse," he told the magazine.

"We're just able to make them."

In his March 20 tweet, Siriano posted: "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," Siriano's tweet added.

Cuomo gratefully accepted the offer, and, reports the NewYork Times, Siriano tasked ten of his employees with the job of creating face masks.

Reported the Times: "They are beginning to make masks and hope to produce a few thousand a week."

Indeed, Siriano showed off initial fruits of the new labor in a tweet from the same day, posting a photo of masks the said were "prototypes."

"Prototypes are happening" the post read; "more updates by next week."

Despite reportedly hearing warnings from intelligence agencies as early as January, the Trump administration did nothing in advance to prepare for the COVID-19 epidemic. As the disease swept Europe, the administration's initial response - echoed by conservative news outlets - was that the outbreak was "a hoax" intended to "impeach" the president.

After the stock market crashed, and with European nations taking more stringent measures to contain the virus even as new cases of the disease rapidly mounted in the United States, the Trump administration abruptly changed its tune. Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. began to put together a relief package for companies and citizens that reportedly approaches a $2 trillion price tag.

But the belated response means that America is playing catch-up in trying not only to contain the virus but protect medical personnel against it, as well as care for the sick. Siriano's efforts - and those of swimwear house Karla Coletto, which the Times reports is now re-tasking a factory to produce masks and hospital gowns - are one example of American entrepreneurs doing their part to fill in the gap.

Siriano's masks are intended to be reusable, the Times noted. The designer, whose career took off after he won Season Four of "Project Runway" in 2008, told the Times that the masks he's producing "have to be white, so they can be bleached."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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