A North Shields company which traditionally makes gowns for hair and beauty salons has adapted in support of the NHS.

Melody Gowns has a history dating back to 1973, manufacturing bespoke gowns for  luxury salons across the UK. A lucrative contract win supplying uniform to Steiner Cruise Liners helped cement their reputation.

Today, the company supplies beauty uniform to salons, luxury spas, barbershops and colleges and count global brand names Wella, Saks, Regis and Trevor Sorbet amongs their customer base.

A recent expansion into sportswear has kept the North East headquartered company busy until the Coronavirus pandemic halted operations. With almost 40 years experience, all Melody Gowns manufacturing operations in their UK plant ceased, leading to the difficult, but necessary decision to furlough dedicated staff.

In light of the current crisis in the UK and worrying shortages of supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the NHS and care workers; Melody Gowns were approached by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to produce gowns to keep staff safe.

Melody Gowns responded overnight, re-hired all staff and leased an additional unit to respond to the call.

The company sourced fabric from one of their suppliers in Yorkshire to produce 4,000 gowns, and reserved another batch of fabric currently lying in Barcelona to allow them to complete the order for 20,000.

All furloughed staff were happy to return to work immediately and Melody Gowns reopened the factory and in order to increase production capacity leased another facility and have also begun employing additional staff. Some retired staff have also returned to help which aids the sense of community spirit.

The World Health Organisation has warned that severe and mounting disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) which will have an affect on the safety and wellbeing of key workers, something which UK companies are working tirelessly to ensure doctors do not have to make difficult choices about whether to treat coronavirus patients when faced with inadequate personal protective equipment. Several hospitals are expecting to run out of protective gowns in the coming days, with the situation worsened by the delay of a consignment from Turkey. Melody Gowns have been in constant contact with suppliers abroad and here in the UK to continue to produce gowns alongside other UK manufacturers coming together to support the NHS and provide paid work to valuable employees.

Managing Director Wayne Hall said that the company was delighted to be approached by the trust for assistance and were more than happy to help.

He said: “Although pulling together all of the resources in such a short period of time was always going to be a logistical challenge, the whole team have done a tremendous job in making it happen. Melody Gowns have always had an embedded emergency contingency plan in place, including a comprehensive business continuity plan to ensure we were able to provide an uninterrupted service should we be hit by any major disruption. By implementing this we were able to respond very quickly to the emergency request, and go from complete shutdown to over 75 per cent production capacity within less than 48 hours.

“Whilst we are not one of the largest manufacturers in the country, the business model which that the company has operated for several years now gives us the flexibility to respond very quickly to unexpected and urgent client requests. This has proven to be invaluable during these unprecedented times.

“By leasing additional premises, as well as enabling them to increase our production capacity, Melody Gowns can also operate comfortably within current government guidelines on social distancing, the safety of our staff being a priority.