March 22, 2020 / 9:24 PM / in 9 days

French fashion labels Saint Laurent, Balenciaga to make coronavirus face masks

FILE PHOTO: Gucci signs are seen outside a shop in Paris, France, December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - High-end fashion labels Saint Laurent and Balenciaga will start making face masks to ease shortages during the coronavirus crisis, their French parent group Kering said on Sunday.

Dwindling stocks of protective gear across France have angered doctors and prompted police unions to threaten to walk off the job - complaints echoed in Spain and Italy.

Paris-based Kering, which also owns Italian brand Gucci, said Saint Laurent and Balenciaga would start manufacturing the gear in their workshops as soon as their processes and materials got formal approval.

Kering said it would also give the French health service 3 million surgical masks which it planned to buy and import from China - and Gucci would also produce and donate 1.1 million masks and 55,000 medical overalls to Italy.

Rival LVMH last week said it was working with the French government to source 40 million health masks from a Chinese supplier.

LVMH, alongside other cosmetics groups including L’Oreal, is using some of its perfume factories to make hand sanitizer.

Luxury goods companies are likely to take a hit from the crisis as moves to contain the pandemic force them to close stores.

Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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