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Healthcare workers also deserve fashion

One of the more unexpected side effects of the pandemic was forever changing our relationships with personal protective equipment; To make medical clothing, at least in the mask sense, a new accessory for self-expression and in almost every wardrobe. And every designer’s arsenal.

Now this relationship is entering a new phase. Josie Natori, a designer known for her loungewear and lingerie, is teaming up with Care + Wear, the “healthwear” company known for its fashionable approach to port-access PICC covers and apparel of scrubs modeled after their best models -selling pajamas.

Ms. Natori is the newest entrant in a growing effort to reposition what may be one of the largest and most overlooked professional sectors as the Next Great Fashion Frontier.

For example, last month, FIG, the exfoliating brand known as the medical apparel lululemon, launched in 2013, went public with stocks selling well above the expected range and valuation of approximately $ 4.5 billion. Jaanuu, which was founded that same year and is known for its gold-zip scrubs, peplum and names like the “Princess Top,” is also reportedly considering an IPO.

And those are just the dominant names in a competitive pool that includes Koi, the scrub “wellness” brand (which also partnered with Betsy Johnson for some patterned peels), WonderWink, and Grey’s Anatomy (well, of course).

According to Fortune Business Insights, the global medical apparel market, the largest segment of which is scrubs and surgical gowns, was $ 86.15 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $ 140 billion by 2028 reported that healthcare jobs from 2019 to 2029 are expected to increase by 15 percent, which means 2.4 million new jobs or “more jobs than any of the other occupational groups”.

Everyone needs clothes for work.

And although some doctors had turned their backs on scrubs before the pandemic, the past year has made them even more important.

“This is how everyone can express themselves in the hospital,” says Chaitenya Razdan, founder of Care + Wear, which he launched in 2014 with the premise that people who deal with medical problems feel as people and not as patients should. And that includes dressing like an individual.

“When you think about the way we express ourselves at work, it’s crazy that nurses and doctors haven’t been given this option in the past,” said Razdan. With dress codes being re-evaluated everywhere, including in financial institutions and schools, why should medical workers be exempted from it?

This is especially true given the way the pandemic put healthcare workers at the center of cultural conversation, turning them into heroes – and given the rise of athleisure, which expanded the designer space into stretchy, comfortable clothing. It’s not a big conceptual leap to believe that scrubs, somewhere between pajamas and performance clothing, deserve the same treatment.

Scrubs, which get their name from the fact that they are worn in a scrubbed environment, were first mentioned by a surgeon in 1894, according to a surgical gown history from the American College of Surgeons hospitals until the 1940s. (Doctors used to just put aprons over their suits.) Originally white, the scrubs turned their familiar green as the white blended with the white of most operating rooms under bright light.

Traditionally, most scrubs were made available to medical workers by hospitals and medical programs, so they had a common denominator: unisex, shapeless enough to fit pretty much any body, and strong enough to withstand industrial laundries.

Dr. Donald Macdonald, an ophthalmologist and oculoplastic and reconstructive eye surgeon at Riverview Medical Center in New Jersey, said he started wearing exfoliators in medical school (he graduated in 1980) and since then, no matter where in the world he was, ” They are all the same.”

While hospitals still offer surgical scrubs, it is increasingly being left up to the individual to buy their own uniforms. This means that while large uniforms like Dickies and Cherokee in the past produced the unisex cotton scrubs used by hospitals (which are typically less expensive and bought in bulk), the door for direct-to-consumer Startups that opened the market. In 2016 the group of surgeons published their first “Statement on surgical clothing”.

Outpatient facilities like plastic surgery practices and dental clinics led with fashionable scrubs, but now they have spread to the general medical population.

“People have started collecting them,” said Marina Hartnick, 25, who is finishing up nursing school at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston and has a penchant for the FIG thin scrubs. Although Massachusetts General has scrubs that operating room staff can use, Ms. Hartnick said she has rarely seen anyone take advantage of them. Most employees want to wear their own.

Kim Zafra, 29, an acute nurse at Mount Sinai in New York and one of the test subjects for Care + Wear x N Natori, owns between 10 and 15 pairs. But until recently she said, “I’ve never seen it as something that makes you feel good in the workplace. It’s strange that we’re just realizing that. “

Ms. Natori, who said she has “at least 20 uncles, aunts, and cousins ​​who are doctors and nurses,” met Razdan in early 2020 through an initiative called Fashion for the Front Lines, which was started to attract retail procurement, Production and distribution of PPE during Covid. They started discussing the possibility of exfoliating.

“We talk a lot about people having too much: too much stuff, too much clothing, too much choice,” said Ms. Natori. “But that doesn’t apply to health workers.”

The fashion developments of peelings are difficult to see with the naked eye. It’s not that they are made of taffeta or with ruffles or different hems. And most hospitals have rules for colors that are used to denote floors and specialties, so it’s not really possible to suddenly appear in leopard prints or awning stripes when the mood arises. (When it comes to scouring caps, there are more choices.)

However, even within the confines of the scrub specifications, there is scope for design. The challenge is to reconcile the wishes of the individual with the requirements of the institution.

“The fit definitely makes a big difference,” says Ms. Hartnick, the nursing student. It increased self-confidence “when you are constantly entering new rooms and meeting new people”. You don’t have to worry about pens falling out of your pockets or your top puffing up and exposing you when you bend forward.

The first real breakthrough came with pants, particularly jogger-style scrubs that were ribbed at the ankles, like sweatpants, which are generally the most popular style. Pretty much every brand now offers a jogger as an alternative, regardless of whether it is a mass seller or one of the newer fashion-forward names. There are also slim fits, cargo styles, and flared scrubs.

The tops have also become less box-shaped and production has become more technical to enable breathability, moisture transport and layering.

According to Heather Hasson, the co-managing director of FIG, the company offers 13 different styles, including sleeveless scrub tops and a fleece that Ms. Hasson describes as the “first indoor jacket”.

The Care + Wear x N Natori Looks, which are a long-term partnership, will be followed by two styles of pants in the four most popular hospital colors for men and women, as well as three shirt variants for women and two for men, with more drops later in the year. The style is mainly in the details: pockets with slightly offset zippers, longer sloping cuts at the back, trapunto stitching in the neck and strategically placed loops for hanging up ID tags. Bags also play a big role, so scrubs can be combined in such a way that there is space for up to 20 in one outfit.

When Mr. Macdonald, the ophthalmologist, brought the Natori scrubs to his office for his staff to try, “they made everyone happy,” he said. He sounded surprised when he talked about designer scrubs. It hadn’t occurred to him that it would make a difference.

Ms. Natori believes her Fashion Week colleagues could follow suit and expand their remit to include medical apparel. “I don’t see why not,” she said. “Fashion is always looking for new markets, and this is really an exciting one.”

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