GoldaTech and Garment District For Gowns    New York, NY

It's OK not to have all the answers. Take the leap of faith that will bring you closer to your purpose. I'm grateful every day that I pivoted to support the healthcare industry.

From Evening Gowns to Hospital Gowns: Answering the Call for Help

Images of New York City nurses wearing trash bags for protection at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic horrified Rachel Rothenberg, Alexandra Baylis and Amy Tiefermann. The three fashion designers, whose collective careers had included work with Ralph Lauren, Dior, Oscar de la Renta and others, knew they could help.

“There was a public call for designers and manufacturers to come up with creative solutions for the PPE [personal protective equipment] shortage in New York,” Rachel says. “Alex, Amy and I formulated a plan and reached out to our professional networks, which included relationships we’d developed working with Garment District factories. We made prototypes, consulted healthcare officials and the FDA [Food and Drug Administration], and began production.”

Within a week, the trio had supervised a group of 30 volunteers in the self-funded production of 300 medical gowns, which they donated to local underserved hospitals under the nonprofit they had organized, Garment District For Gowns. Then they launched a GoFundMe page — attracting $70,000 in contributions — to ramp up their production efforts.

Rachel reached out to Empire State Development, the umbrella organization for the New York State Urban Development Corporation and the New York Job Development Authority, for guidance on navigating gown donations; she was encouraged to apply for financial support.

“We were the first of 33,000 applicants to be awarded an ESD COVID-19 Retooling Grant, which was intended to not only get gowns to medical workers, but also grow New York’s PPE supply chain for the longer term,” she says. Garment District For Gowns supported the rehire of over 1,200 furloughed factory workers, a boon to the Garment District, which, like most of the fashion industry, had been hard-hit by the pandemic. “With the help of the state, we were able to prevent factory closures. Our momentum helped us see we could achieve more by scaling, so we launched our for-profit, GoldaTech.”

GoldaTech Innovates PPE Design and Production

GoldaTech co-founders Rachel, Amy and Alexandra seek to reach beyond New York City to fulfill city and state contracts with PPE solutions. “We’re dedicated to solving issues that caught our attention as outsiders — notably, a need for more eco-friendly and sustainable solutions in American-made PPE,” Rachel says. To date, New York State Department of Homeland Security, Arizona Department of Health Services, the New York City Department of Health and others have purchased their reusable, app-trackable medical gowns made of recycled materials. GoldaTech donates 10 percent of its profits back to Garment District For Gowns, to continue amplifying its charitable work in underserved communities.

While transforming from independent designers to entrepreneurs has been challenging, Rachel says that she and her colleagues have benefited from the support of others. “None of us come from business backgrounds, so we have relied heavily on advisors. Friends have made referrals and shared their own insights; law firms have offered us pro bono legal advice; and PNC helped guide us through financial structuring,” she says. “In fact, our PNC team has guided us every step of the way in building GoldaTech. It’s encouraging to have your bank and banker believe in you and your future.”

That future is expected to include a new line of medical scrubs and shoes, as well as the continued commitment to underserved healthcare communities. “We realize that the high demand for PPE won’t always be in the forefront, so we’re partnering with other organizations to identify other ways we can give back,” says Rachel. “Supporting communities in need is vital to our vision.”


Community Involvement

  • Garment District For Gowns supports The Floating Hospital, a nonprofit providing free healthcare services, as well as meals, clothing and personal care items, to medically underserved communities in New York City.
  • Garment District For Gowns has donated over 11,000 medical gowns to 46 healthcare facilities across 14 states.

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