With the medical community in the U.S. facing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), a crucial need in the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus, fashion brands all over the world have stepped in to help. And New Balance is one of them. The brand, which has become one of the hottest in the streetwear game, recently announced that its U.S. factories would be working to develop, manufacture and deliver facial masks to hospital personnel. Not only are they for a great cause, though, but these masks just happen to look stylish — like they were made for hypebeasts.
They're real — As soon as New Balance revealed its medical masks on social media, fans of the brand were quick to appreciate the gesture and their design aesthetic. "You should sell these after the crisis is over," said an Instagram user on NB's post. New Balance confirmed to Input that the masks it teased "indeed look like the ones posted to social," though it didn't say how many it will be making nor how or when it plans to distribute them to the hospital workers who need them.
Joining the fight — New Balance's masks are part of a larger effort by the brand to support COVID-19 relief efforts, which includes a pledge of $2 million that's going to nonprofit organizations such as the Boston Resiliency Fund, Good Shepherd Food Bank, St. Louis Area Foodbank, the Red Cross, and more.
"The global COVID-19 health crisis has called on individuals and organizations to bring their expertise and resources to solve new and extraordinary challenges," New Balance said in a statement. 'We are coordinating our efforts with our government officials and local medical institutions as well other U.S. consortiums and testing facilities."
Help needed — As the novel coronavirus keeps wreaking havoc around the globe, it's clear that private companies are going to have to continue to lend a hand — and right now there are few things that doctors and nurses need more than facial masks. While it's still unclear the amount New Balance will make, at this point every little bit will help against the pandemic.
"New Balance has engaged a portion of its skilled and innovative U.S. manufacturing workforce to develop face masks to address the significant demand for these supplies," the brand added. "We are producing prototypes for face masks in our Lawrence, MA manufacturing facility and hope to scale production using our other New England factories soon."
Update: New Balance told Input that, by mid-April, its goal is to produce up to 100,000 masks weekly at its Lawrence, MA and Norridgewock, ME factories combined. Below is the company's full statement:
"New Balance has developed and is currently scaling production of a general-use face mask as urgent demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to intensify across the country. Developed in consultation with local medical and R&D institutions, New Balance produced its first face mask prototype less than a week ago. By mid-April, our goal is to make up to 100,000 units weekly at our Lawrence, MA and Norridgewock, ME factories combined. We are simultaneously advancing our current face mask design and materials specifications to ideally meet FDA requirements and achieve a product that can be confidently used by frontline medical staff who require those criteria.
New Balance is approaching distribution through a combination of direct medical facility coordination and communication at the Massachusetts and Maine state levels, where our factories are located, to help us best understand where our current face mask design fits their supply and demand needs. This is not a commercial opportunity. NB is pursuing break-even pricing and/or or donations for the face mask. This initiative has kept many of our associates proudly engaged during this economic and public health crisis while our traditional retail customers are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In parallel, New Balance is also quickly responding to calls for other PPE including gowns and foot coverings, among other items, with our R&D teams. This includes working toward prototypes and exploring collaborative opportunities that optimize our U.S.-based 3D printing capabilities.
We are proud to combine the industrial R&D expertise and innovative thinking of our associates with our domestic manufacturing resources to work to solve new and extraordinary product challenges, reflecting our brand’s purpose-driven culture and leveraging our skilled American workers in our New England factories."