Fashion Exchange producing masks to help fight COVID–19

person using a sewing machine

George Brown College’s Fashion Exchange is helping to slow the spread of COVID-19, one stitch at a time. 

Studies have shown that simple cloth face coverings may slow the spread of the virus, minimizing how much asymptomatic carriers can transmit to others. But for weeks, masks have been hard to find, and medical grade masks are prioritized for health-care and front line workers. So the Fashion Exchange (FX), a research hub that unites fashion education, design, production and entrepreneurship, is stepping in to fill that gap and produce masks by special order for essential workers.

While not medical grade—the masks are a reusable option for non-medical use to reduce droplet transmission.

The first 1,000 masks produced are earmarked for Deltera Inc., a company under the Tridel Group of Companies, which specializes in the construction of high-rise residential developments as well as mixed-use projects, long-term care facilities, and institutional buildings. Orders from additional partners are in the works and expected later in the spring.

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of maintaining a strong apparel manufacturing industry here in Ontario, to ensure self-sufficiency in critical personal protective equipment (PPE) for the future,” says Marilyn McNeil-Morin, Director Fashion Exchange. “Since we went into isolation, the Fashion Exchange was inundated with requests to support the production of PPE for various partners. We are excited to be able to leverage FX manufacturing expertise and capacity toward providing quantities of these products for essential workers.”

Work continues with physical distancing, extensive cleaning

The project will see FX employees produce up to 2,500 masks a week for George Brown industry and community partners. The team will practice social distancing while creating the masks in the college’s 6,500 square foot Regent Park facility, which will receive frequent and extensive cleaning.

George Brown has been closed since mid-March, and opening the doors for this critical work in its FX—under heavy restrictions—was a cross-college effort. Employees from the Centre for Arts & DesignResearch & InnovationFacilitiesSafety and Security, and Health & Safety worked together to ensure protocols for a safe work environment are in place.

Do you know of an industry or community organization who needs help fighting COVID-19? Funding opportunities are available at the federal and provincial levels. Reach out to the office of Research and Innovation for more information at