Dior turns its hand to face masks in coronavirus battle

PARIS, March 31 (Reuters) - French fashion label Christian Dior said on Tuesday one of its workshops had started to produce face masks for workers in supermarkets and other sectors still operating during the coronavirus outbreak, echoing moves by other luxury brands.

Dior, which is owned by LVMH, will produce the protective gear in a plant in Brittany, northern France, which normally makes high-end baby clothes and which will be staffed by volunteers.

All of the brand’s other production sites have closed.

France has entered its third week of a broad lockdown aimed at fighting the spread of the virus, although factories in some industries are still operating or looking to reopen after bringing in extra health measures.

Other fashion companies in France and Italy, home to some of the world’s biggest brands, have also turned their hand to making face masks or medical blouses, including Kering’s Gucci, Prada and Chanel.

LVMH is also using some of its perfume factories to make hand sanitiser gel, as are other cosmetics makers.

Dior said its face masks would be donated to workers in key jobs, such as in transport or food distribution, albeit not hospital staff, who have so far been the first port of call for protective gear requisitioned by authorities.

The brand did not detail what its production capacity was.

Shortages of medical equipment and protective items are still acute in France, even after the government ordered one billion masks in recent days.

President Emmanuel Macron pledged earlier on Tuesday to make the country self-sufficient in protective masks by year-end.

He said other companies and new mask producers like car parts maker Faurecia, tyre maker Michelin and retailer Intermarche will also push total output to 15 million per week.

Ventilators are also in short supply. Respirator maker and industrial gases firm Air Liquide is teaming up with car parts maker Valeo, car maker PSA and Schneider Electric to produce more ventilators, Macron added. (Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Ken Ferris)