COVID-19 SPECIAL

From womenswear to coveralls: Designer stirred by news of medical workers wearing raincoats

The medical coveralls produced by Ans.Ein are distributed to healthcare workers in Indonesia.
The medical coveralls produced by Ans.Ein are distributed to healthcare workers in Indonesia. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ANSEINA ELIZA

When she saw news reports of medical workers in her home country of Indonesia wearing raincoats to face patients with Covid-19, designer Anseina Eliza knew she had to do something.

The Singapore-based Indonesian designer is behind womenswear label Ans.Ein which, on a regular day, produces whimsical pieces with custom prints.

But sales had plummeted by about 80 per cent since the early weeks of the pandemic. "People don't need fashion items now. We thought, why not shift our resources to do something more important?" says Ms Anseina, 35.

She took to researching how to make medical coveralls, liaising with doctors in Indonesia to test prototypes. Medical-grade material was hard to come by, but the doctors told her the priority was to make the coveralls waterproof as Covid-19 is spread via droplets, she says.

She next galvanised her team of eight seamstresses in Jakarta to make coveralls. Her business partner, who is based there, helped oversee production.

The washable coveralls come with details like concealed zippers and velcro to prevent droplets from entering gaps in the garment. "We even try to minimise the sewing because stitches also have gaps," she adds.

Within three weeks, they completed the first batch. Since late March, they have distributed about 3,500 coveralls to hospitals and polyclinics in Indonesia, with a target of 8,800.

Even with donations from the public, the exercise has eaten into her personal funds. Some larger hospitals bought the coveralls. But more - smaller hospitals in remote areas even Ms Anseina had "never heard of before" - were given the coveralls for free. Each coverall is priced at $10, which just about covers the cost of material and paying the seamstress.

Despite this, Ms Anseina hired five more seamstresses. "They came to us and asked for a job because businesses in Indonesia closed. Since we have something to do, we accepted them."

 
 
 

Early last month, they started producing fabric masks too. Noting that essential workers in Singapore still had to go to work every day, she pledged to donate 1,000 masks to essential-service workers including cleaners and security guards.

Ans.Ein has since donated 1,500 masks, with more currently in production. These were made from new, plain fabrics. A week later, she released printed versions for sale, in adult and children sizes, made from her label's signature fabrics. Any revenue goes back into funding the coveralls and masks.

"My heart is for these two countries - half my life is in Singapore, half in Indonesia. I wanted to see what we could do," says Ms Anseina, who moved here in 2008 to work as an architect. She is married with a three-year-old daughter and with a second child on the way.

"The healthcare system in Indonesia was not prepared, but because of that, a lot of people are willing to donate or do something. Everybody's trying to help one another."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2020, with the headline 'Designer stirred by news of medical workers wearing raincoats'. Print Edition | Subscribe