A Barbour Factory outlet in Jarrow is pictured as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Jarrow, Britain, April 15, 2020. REUTERS/Lee Smith
LONDON (Reuters) – British fashion brand Barbour has turned over its production line to making protective gowns for frontline healthcare workers battling the coronavirus outbreak, reviving memories of its patriotic efforts in both world wars.
Many of Britain’s healthcare workers have complained there is not enough protective equipment, including gowns, masks and hoods.
The 126-year old Barbour, famous for its wax jackets and country fashion, is targeting the manufacture of 23,000 gowns over three weeks, chairman Margaret Barbour told BBC radio on Wednesday. It hopes to have made at least 7,000 by the end of the week.
“It’s extremely worthwhile to know that we’re playing our part,” she said.
Barbour, 80, said the project stemmed from her close relationship with the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, northeast England, which was the first hospital in Britain to treat novel coronavirus patients in January.
She offered to help by recalling machinists at Barbour’s South Shields factory who in line with the national lockdown were not working, reorganising the plant’s layout to comply with the government’s social distancing regulations.
“They are so enthusiastic to help, I think we all are in this desperate time,” she said, noting that Barbour is no stranger to adaptation.
During both world wars the factory was turned over to make military garments to assist the war effort.
“We even made trench sleeping bags in World War One, which really upsets me a bit,” said Barbour.
Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Stephen Addison and Mark Potter