Amid the pandemic, one designer pivoted from women’s wear to medical wear — with a twist.
Canadian designer Nina Kharey runs Nonie, a women’s wear brand known for its tailored look and appeal among the royal family. (Meghan Markle, for one, favors the brand’s pink trenchcoat.) Witnessing the rise of personal protective equipment as her brand pivoted like many others in the industry, Kharey and team announced the launch of its Folds medical wear line this week. With it, the aim is to be a leader in stylish, protective and sustainable medical wear, an area yet untapped for the millions of medical professionals in the U.S.
“As a science-driven venture, I wanted to really invest my time and expertise in the design space to bettering the future of our global healthcare heroes,” said Kharey, founder and chief executive officer of Folds. “The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic really brought forth a long-awaited focus on just how pivotal our health care system is, and it is my belief these men and women deserve to be wearing clothing that not only protects them but offers comfort and superior performance. Our scrubs also have an immense amount of pockets to offer functionality to these individuals, something I hope to continue to develop and offer in the future.”
Espousing more of a streetwear taste than the average medical uniform, the brand launches in February on National Women’s Physician Day (Feb. 3), relying on a direct-to-consumer e-commerce model, sold exclusively on Foldswear.com. The pieces retail for $40 to $50 for tops and $55 to $65 for bottoms. Folds also carries joggers and slim-cut pants for both women and men.
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The company embarked on extensive research to back the efficacy of products across areas of wash durability, anti-viral properties and recyclability. Styles are fully recyclable after their predicted useful life of four years (a pivot away from disposable goods) and made of 100 percent nylon polyamide — a post-consumer plastic.
“The lab we work with is in Europe and has tested all specs and properties when it comes to the anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. Initially, masks were created with this technology once all tests were complete and registered. Additionally, we worked with numerous doctors and nurses from varying fields (surgeons, dentists, aestheticians, private clinic practitioners and more) to understand current pain points and fabric durability,” Kharey said. “Because of the nature of the company, and our desire to change the future of protective garments wear, we spend most of the time in research and development trying to find the safest and most environmentally friendly technology.”
Could this type of science-led product design be a model for the fashion industry at large? Kharey thinks so.
As for its ultra-protective claims, Folds has certifications from the Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency. The fabrics employ silver ion technology at the yarn level, along with a TiO2 compound added to the polymer to give the unique anti-viral property.
“This means the scrubs themselves protect against the COVID-19 virus by preventing the transmission and spread on the fabric from patient to practitioner,” Kharey said.
As with her brand Nonie, Folds taps the same Vancouver-based manufacturing facility which Kharey says prizes ethical treatment for workers, including the benefit of living wages and healthy working conditions. The company’s production manager also happens to own the factory — furthering the cozy connection between brand and factory.
Folds’ ambitions are to change the game for medical wear, and as of yet — the team has taken no external investment.
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