Mayor Lightfoot Announces Local Businesses Selected to Provide One Million Reusable Cloth Masks for Chicago Residents
Four Chicagoland businesses to produce, source and provide reusable cloth masks that will be distributed to Aldermanic offices and through City’s Racial Equity Rapid Response Team
CHICAGO – Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot today announced four diverse local businesses have been selected to produce, source and provide one million reusable cloth masks that will be distributed across Chicago to further protect city residents, especially our most vulnerable populations, from the spread of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Building upon Mayor Lightfoot’s robust public health response to this pandemic while also supporting local businesses during this difficult time, the City has entered into agreements with Barbara Bates Designs, G.A.I.A.U. Product Design & Development Ltd., Silk Screen Express and The Will Group to create a total of 250,000 reusable cloth masks that will be distributed to Aldermanic offices and another 750,000 reusable cloth masks to be provided through the City’s Racial Equity Rapid Response Team.
“While the COVID-19 crisis has been hard on every resident in this city, it has also shown the impact we all have on each other—strangers and friends alike. Whether it’s fashion designers that have altered their production to create cloth masks or manufacturing companies that have shifted their operations to source and distribute face coverings, these companies are a testament to what it looks like when our communities and cities respond to a crisis in unison,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Each of these one million cloth masks coupled with the thousands that individuals have donated themselves represents the generosity, compassion and true spirit resiliency of Chicago.”
Over the past week, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) thoroughly reviewed each of the local businesses’ proposed masks to ensure they meet national safety standards. Based on their proposed product samples, production schedules and pricing, the following four vendors were selected to produce masks:
- Barbara Bates Designs: Located on Chicago’s Near South Side, Bates Designs has been a dynamic leader in the fashion industry since its founding in 1986. Led by designer Barbara Bates, the African American woman-owned company is originally known for dressing celebrities and entertainers until production shifted over the last months to create reusable cloth masks for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight.
- Jermikko of G.A.I.A.U. Product Design & Development Ltd.: Located in the New Eastside of Chicago, the company is run by Chicago-based fashion designer and manufacturer, Jermikko Shoshanna. Four decades ago, Jermikko emerged as one of the first African American, female-owned design and clothing manufacturers in Illinois, selling to top retailers nationwide. Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Jermikko has utilized her talent and workforce to create cloth masks for Chicago’s residents with a concentration on the less fortunate and advising other designers on how to set up their custom studios to create for mass production.
- Silk Screen Express: Founded by Dawn Armijo-Coleman in 1992 in Tinley Park, Illinois, the WBE-certified company produces more than 100,000 different screen-printed products, embroidered apparel and promotional items for businesses, universities, local, state and federal government.
- The Electrical Resource Management – The Will Group (TWG): The African American and family-owned and operated electrical product and service provider has been located in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood since 2008 with plans for expansion to North Lawndale in Fall of 2020. The Will Group consists of several separate and distinct companies that are prominent within the lighting and electrical industry, including Electrical Resource Management (ERM) which has now dedicated its workforce- composed of 81% minorities or women - to sourcing and distributing cloth masks.
“We are in awe of the ingenuity of Chicagoans. These vendors stepped up and changed their production and operations to make or source cloth masks because that was the need,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “I want to thank them for their quick action. Studies show that masks and face coverings can help prevent those who are COVID-19 positive from spreading the virus.”