Ex UCLan students rally to design isolation gowns for Blackpool Vic staff

Fashion design experts are putting the zip on catwalk creations to help make garments of a different nature.

Thursday, 30th April 2020, 3:45 pm

The small team of staff and former students from the University of Central Lancashire have stitched up a plan to provide staff at Blackpool's Victoria Hospital with desperately needed scrubs for staff.

Working round the clock, the team led by led by former students and part-time lecturer Femida Adam, has has already produced an initial batch of 150 isolation gowns after getting the specialist fabric from Carrington Textiles in Adlington, near Chorley.

The firm has been manufacturing more than 3.5 million metres of their specialist material for the healthcare industry.

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Audrey Hindle at work on the gowns for Blackpool Victoria Hospital

Using an NHS pattern and specification, the UCLan team produced a prototype gown, known as a ‘toile’, in just one day. This was enthusiastically endorsed by staff at Blackpool Vic who gave the green light for an order for 150 gowns.

Femida graduated from UCLan in 2014 with a first-class degree in eastern fashion design.

She runs a successful modest fashion business, Al-Aura, producing occasion wear for celebrations and weddings but since the Since the lockdown demand for her work has slowed so so she was eager to put her design skills to another use.

Femida said: " It has s been really satisfying to work on such a worthwhile project.

Femida Adam who is leading the UCLan gowns project

"There are only six of us and we’re all complying with social distancing requirements. Even so, we’ve managed to organise one of our sewing studios into a pretty slick operation. It’s now taking us about 15-20 minutes to cut out and then sew each gown."

The team includes David Knight, Course Leader for UCLan’s art and design foundation programme.

He is juggling work on the gowns with teaching and tutorial commitments and : "The design of the gowns isn’t too complicated and it’s fantastic that we’re able to come together and contribute in this way. I think my wife is also quite glad of the peace."

Maria Murray, who heads UCLan’s School of Art, Design and Fashion said: "It was great to receive such positive feedback from the hospital and we plan to have delivered all of the gowns l this week with a further 200 being constructed and dispatched the following week.

"In many ways this crisis has shown that in our country the skills, creativity and enthusiasm to ‘make’ are still there and the team working on this project has set a great example of what can be achieved when we all pull together.”

Kevin McGee, chief executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the hospital cell lead for the Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS Covid-19 NHS Co-ordination Structure, said: "It is extremely valuable to have additional sources of protective equipment during this challenging period for all health and care staff and we are very grateful to UCLan and to Carrington Textiles for their support and sterling efforts in turning this around so quickly. This adds further meaning to protecting our NHS and saving lives.”

Paul Farrell, sales and marketing director for Carrington Textiles, added: "We’ve been supplying organisations from across the UK with our fabric to help protect a wide range of key workers.

"So, when the university contacted us with a brief to produce isolation gowns for Blackpool Victoria Hospital we were delighted to help.

"It’s fantastic news that UCLan’s fashion and design team has worked so quickly, not only to produce an approved prototype, but to meet Blackpool Victoria’s requirements for 150 gowns. If the university receives further gown orders, we’ll do our absolute best to supply additional material."