When the country went into lockdown in March this year, most fashion designers took on the mask trade as a form of survival and to continue to work as an essential service provider.
Clothing designer and creator of Klipa Denim, Carlo Gibson (49) had just started working with a small team to manufacture masks during the second week of lockdown, when a doctor from Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg contacted them after seeing their creations.
“One of the doctors from the hospital saw what we were doing and asked us to make masks for all the staff members at Helen Joseph [Hospital] as well as for all of the nurses for public use such as in between moving in taxis and so forth. So, we designed special masks in conjunction with the Infectious Disease Department at the hospital,” he tells YOU.
Over 6 000 masks were made for the hospital by Carlo with the help of several charity organisations.
While busy working with the hospital, Carlo became friends with several hospital staff including some friendly nurses. This is when he began to learn more about the plight of the nurses during this coronavirus pandemic.
“What I realized is that doctors get far more attention than nurses in our society. However, in reality especially with the Covid, nurses are much more hands-on with patients than the doctors. But there’s much more attention given to doctors’ needs and doctors’ clothing but very little for nurses,” Carlo says.
He also discovered that before the pandemic, nurses would wear their work uniforms. But now with the Covid-19 outbreak, they have to wear nurse scrubs, which they had to purchase at their own expense.
“So, while I was talking with a few nurses, I was thinking of designing something in a ‘Klipa’ style, which is an African print. I didn’t like what they had been wearing. It was like a mechanical overall for all their medical staff and it is so unimaginative, so I designed a few Afrocentric scrubs for them.”
When Carlo delivered the scrubs he was overwhelmed by the amazing response and the huge demand as well as the interest shown by the other nurses. Unfortunately, most nurses couldn’t afford to buy these scrubs but that only inspired Carlo to seek funding and make more nurse scrubs for free.
“I thought ‘this can’t be right!’. These people are doing a good service for us. When I went to the Covid ward a few weeks ago, one nurse was pregnant but still continued to work. So, from that point I just had so much respect for those ladies. We need to show our appreciation in some way, so I started a funding campaign.”
He created a Back-a-Buddy campaign and told his friends and family about his new project. With their generous donations plus his own money, he managed to make his first patch of 50 nurse scrubs to donate to the nurses at Helen Joseph Hospital.
“My inspiration was to create an outfit that didn’t look and feel like an overall, but instead made the nurses feel dignified and comfortable,” Carlo explains.
There are 850 workers at the Helen Joseph
Hospital and Carlo would like for each one of them to get two sets of nurse scrubs.
An Afrocentric and practical set of nurse scrubs made by Carlo and his team
“Traditional scrubs are an expensive investment for nurses compared to their monthly salaries,” Carlo says. “By donating, we could ensure that nurses are outfitted in a manner that better equips them to deal with the immense task that lies ahead.”
On 3 July, creative agency Joe Public United made a generous donation of over R60 000 which allowed Carlo and his team to make almost 200 nurse scrubs.
Some of these scrubs are maroon and orange, while others are purple and grey with Klipa-style African print detail. Speaking about the inspiration behind the designs, Carlos says: “It had to be very functional, so it has pockets for the nurses to put their stuff. I took into consideration what the nurses do and what they need, and it being Klipa Denim, it had to be contemporary and urban.
“They [the nurses] are important people doing an important job, and they hardly get any recognition. Let’s show our appreciation to these unsung heroes by helping them get the gear that they require,” Carlo concluded.
To find out more about the Klipa Denim nurse scrubs initiative, visit their page here.
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