When lockdown began, staff and students from Foundation began an initiative making scrubs for NHS workers. Hundreds of scrubs later, and with support from LVMH, CSM loves NHS moves into its next phase.
The idea began with Oonagh O’Hagan and Jo Simpson, Curriculum Leaders of Fashion and Textiles on Foundation. They approached Chris Kelly, Contextual Practice and Fashion Lecturer, to design a downloadable pattern which was then shared among Foundation students displaced across the world due to COVID-19. “We devised the project so that we would feel helpful,” says O’Hagan, “It was something positive for yourself and somebody else. It wasn’t about volume but about a personal act, feeling like you could show gratitude.”
Not only did students pick up needle and thread, but their families did too. People across the world were downloading the patterns and getting to work. “There were people who hadn’t sewed for 30 years saying that they’d begun again because of this,” recalls O’Hagan, “and I have letters from doctors saying ‘thank you’… It was quite overwhelming. Yes, it was hard work, but it had such a positive impact that it didn’t matter. It put other things into perspective.”
Anyone who was a prolific maker was connected up with the Emergency Design Network – a coronavirus-inspired initiative co-founded by alum Phoebe English – to get access to technical fabrics for specific scrubs.
Hundreds of pairs of scrubs later, the project has developed in many ways. Of course, as COVID-19 continues to impact our daily lives, makers will still send scrubs to frontline works in UK hospitals, but there are plans for future. CSMlovesNHS is being embedded in the Foundation curriculum as an annual project, a way for students to learn about pattern-cutting as well as social-oriented design:
“We can focus on creating designers who are socially aware with each action they make through learning has a positive reaction. Nothing gets wasted and all knowledge is used in a positive way.”
It became obvious, as staff in hospitals across the UK celebrated their donated scrubs, that different fabrics and aesthetics had an impact on wellbeing as well as answering an immediate practical need. One aspect O’Hagan is keen to research more is how uniform and clothing in healthcare can support and even energise a workforce.
“Fashion, design and craft can sometimes be seen as frivolous and superficial and actually they’re human and fundamental. We need these things.”
LVMH’s direct support means that research and development can continue and there is also the possibility that some of its Maisons may donate material.
The project has sparked more ideas too. Great Ormond Street Hospital got in touch asking if the team could develop patterns for children. There’s also an interest in making gowns for patients and scrubs for staff that are visually connected, a direct expression and reinforcement of that intimate relationship. If ever there was a garment that deserved reconsideration and innovation in the times of COVID-19, it is medical scrubs.