Truly has Mich Dulce's initiative asking the local fashion industry to get involved in the fight against COVID-19 created ripples since its conception a month ago. The Manila Protective Gear Sewing Club, founded only last March 21, is now at more than 3,000 members—comprising designers, tailors, and suppliers all voluntarily stitching much-needed PPEs (personal protective equipment) for our frontline workers. Among these companies and institutions stirred to action was Steeze Design Studios, owned by Miko Raval with his fianceé Kaira Dimatulac and Kaira's brother Ralph.
"Two weeks since the lockdown, we were really getting anxious because we knew we were capable of helping our frontliners. We have been seeing news that our frontliners didn't have enough PPEs to protect themselves from the virus. We have seen doctors wearing garbage bags as their alternative for PPEs," said the group, led by the The Killer Bride star as Steeze's sales and marketing head, in a collective response. "We also thought that this project would also help our people to have work during this time of crisis."
It took a quick meeting for Miko and his partners to finally get the ball rolling. Steeze, already five years old, had almost everything ready. Next to the patterns and other technical specifications courtesy of the Sewing Club, they had a warehouse with efficient equipment, some local fabric, and, most of all, the drive in them to help out. They knew they had a mission to do.
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Of course, Miko and his partners knew it would be a daunting task, if a part of their 30 crew members didn't sign up with willing hearts. They eventually got to convince 15 people for the project, half of the original crew as to abide by social distancing on site.
"We said that we were only gonna do it if our people would say yes to staying in and being quarantined all together at our office," the group narrated.
Steeze's limited manpower interim was already good enough for their early pledge of 100 pieces. But on March 27, perhaps to make it a more ambitious charitable endeavor, Steeze would send out a call to family and friends eager to pledge through funding. To their surprise, "Within 24 hours, we received a pledge for 1,500 pieces of PPEs for our frontliners. Within 48 hours, the pledges reached to 2,800. And then within 72 hours, we reached our maximum fabric capacity at 4,113 pieces of PPEs."
The Steeze crew started coming in on March 29. Far from the initial pledge, they worked on producing 800-1,000 PPEs a week.
As of April 24, Steeze has received 7,500 pieces and delivered 6,806 suits. The group said they're still seeking for pledges, at PHP 550 per PPE sewn.
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It has been work like no other for Miko and his partners, who then had to stay together with their crew and away from their families.
"Fortunately, we have good-hearted donors who are giving (the crew) lunch meals once in a while and we have also stocked up food for them, so that they wouldn’t have to go out to get food," the group revealed.
Still, it's the kind of sacrifice they believe is just a slice compared to the time, effort, and heart frontline workers are pouring out amid a pandemic—one that has already infected around 2.8 million and killed almost 200,00 worldwide.
"Our frontliners are doing their best to help the country fight COVID-19 and us being in the garment industry, we also have to do our part to protect them as much as we can," the group said.
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With the Philippines now at 7,249 cases including more than 1,000 healthcare workers tested positive, Miko and his partners are not halting on their mission anytime soon.
"Our goal is to deliver everyday to our beneficiary hospitals. We are doing our best to full blast our production, so we can make ship more PPEs a day," they said.
Off their busy days at work, Miko and his partners have their well wishes to everyone so dedicated at their jobs to ultimately flatten the curve. "To our frontliners, thank you for all of your hard work! We will do our best to make alternative ways to protect you. We are all behind you! Saludo kami sa inyo!"
For Miko, Kaira, Ralph, and the rest of Steeze Design Studios, manufacturing clothes—now done with bigger a purpose especially in a time of crisis—seems all in a day's work.
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Photos courtesy of Miko Raval and Kaira Dimatulac