Fella Hamilton gets green light to make sustainable PPE gear

Fella Hamilton gets green light to make sustainable PPE gear

Melbourne-based fashion house Fella Hamilton has achieved a breakthrough in its pivot to simultaneously provide health clothing and tackle the environmental problem of disposable gowns ending up in landfill.

The company's reusable clothes, gowns and scrubs for frontline health care workers have received Therapeutic Goods Australia (TGA) Class 1 non-sterile approval, and orders have been rolling in.

The company shifted into health in early April and has been working with Cabrini Health, Victoria, to perfect the design of the isolation gowns and ensure they provide adequate protection.

The gowns, which have a water-resistant coating, are also more sustainable than traditional disposable offerings as they have been specially designed to be washed and dried at high temperatures to kill pathogens and can withstand up to at least 20 washes.

"Since we began this project, we've been in contact with so many health care workers who are desperate for protective wear to keep them safe as they do their jobs," says Fella Hamilton CEO Sharon Hamilton.

"But the feedback that we have received is that they want their protective wear to be as sustainable as possible, and to support local Australian industry and to become less reliant on the offshore supply of PPE (personal protective equipment)."

As the Covid-19 crisis continues, front line workers are facing a significant shortage of PPE, usually obtained from China.

"Many of the products coming from China are being redeployed to the US and Europe as circumstances escalate and Australia is now facing delays of up to nine weeks. The demand for these items simply can't be met from the usual suppliers when it's needed most," says Hamilton.

"Because we have retained a significant proportion of our manufacturing in Australia, and have taken this project on, we have been able to bring back our staff to full capacity."

The company, which has been in existence since 1969, is now providing 2,530 gowns to Cabrini, and 1,000 gowns to WA aged care provider Juniper as well as several small private hospitals.

Fella Hamilton has the capacity to produce 5,000-10,000 gowns a week once more orders start to come in, and has has also responded to requests by several state Health Departments for expressions of interest to supply PPE.

The expansion into health clothing is expected to continue for the company after the Covid-19 crisis is over as well.

"As an Australian manufacturer, it has been good to feel useful during this time and it has highlighted to us the need for Australia to be self-sufficient through local manufacturing," says Hamilton.

"We can see how we can meet this need ongoing as we develop more essential health items moving forward."

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