With the help of a local fashion designer, Hopkins designs a new suit to fight Ebola

While they won't look like pieces by Versace or Gucci, new suits for fighting Ebola, designed by Johns Hopkins University with the help of local clothing designer Jill Andrews, will be on display at New York Fashion Week tomorrow.

As part of the Ebola Challenge sponsored by the GE Foundation, Andrews, whose studio is in Hampden, was selected to join scientists from the school's Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design for the Ebola Challenge, an effort to create a more ergonomic suit for those fighting the disease.

In early October, the 60 team members met to design their suit. Later that month, they won a U.S. Aid grant for further development, according to Andrews. The designer's work in fashion proved to be beneficial in both form and function.

"We came up with an empathetic design," Andrews said. "As a fashion designer I work with people, I study how garments fit and the tricky closures that come with this kind of design. My skills as a pattern maker allowed for rapid prototyping to create and modify on the spot. This was not cosmetic. But there are cosmetic issues—the suits are very intimidating. We addressed these aesthetic issues."

Among the aesthetic changes: a full-view integrated hood, which will let the victims see the faces of their doctors and aid workers as opposed to them being behind a mask, according to Andrews.

There are more technical innovations, too. The dangerous process of removing the suit, known as doffing, was streamlined into a one-person job. Andrews did not elaborate on how this works but said it would be revealed publicly in New York on Friday. 

The team also designed a method for removing two layers of gloves without touching the possibly infected outer glove and added, as GE put it, "a small battery-powered, dry air source to cool the user by blowing air into the hood."

Andrews hoped that the suit will see use in the coming year.

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