PPE charity Mask Our Heroes has launched a new collaboration with the designer Angelo Galasso – making over its ambassadors and showcasing how Covid-safe events may look in the future. Creative Director Angelo has also produced a designer face mask with proceeds going to the charity and announced a fundraising competition offering one lucky winner a £5,000 makeover.
The Masketeers actor Tamer Hassan, former footballers Anton Ferdinand and Jimmy Bullard, TV star Calum Best and others joined the charity’s founder Matt McGahan at the designer’s store in London’s Knightsbridge for a ground-breaking sterile, coronavirus-safe event. All attendees were tested for the virus at the venue, which had been fully sanitised beforehand with social distancing observed.
The charity believes the event could be a blueprint for fashion shows, launches and sporting events during the pandemic. Mask Our Heroes was set up by Hassan and entrepreneur Matt McGahan following the death of his father Alan from the virus in March. After witnessing the poor state of PPE provision in hospitals, McGahan vowed to raise money to deliver vital equipment to the frontline. The charity has since donated over 250,000 items to various health settings around the country.
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The Masketeers ditched their denims, sweat pants and football training gear to be spectacularly transformed and styled by the Italian designer. Angelo personally made over the group with his unique touch, bringing a sense of style and fun to them during the fitting at his store next to Harrods. Galasso, who spent lockdown in his native Italy, said: “I would like really to thank all these amazing people. They have given everyone all these masks. We shouldn’t just call them heroes, they are more than heroes, because they give the kit, the PPE to hospitals all over the UK. It’s really an amazing idea. This is the lesson the world has given us – to start to think about other people.
“This is quite ground-breaking. We have been forced to do it but this is something good. I love what they have done – to make everything in the shop clean and all the help the celebrities have given to arrange this event.
“I appreciate the testing – everyone took the test – fortunately they were all negative and we were able to do it all properly.” On the styling, Angelo added: “The policy of our brand is to be different and always to create something different- from the shoes to the shirt. Same with the mask – why don’t we create something with very nice material?
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“I usually really want to change the style – my product is a very strong product. You can see my touch but each one is different. This is the key with our product – if you dare to take a bit of risk, you can really start to do something different.”
And Hassan, famed for his roles in The Football Factory and The Business, said: “We are so grateful to Angelo for collaborating with us. There is a time when this will pass but while it’s here, we have to adapt and how the shop has been set up with testing, it could be a milestone for other establishments.
“Angelo Galasso has been our guinea pig in that way. Mask Our Heroes is not only delivering PPE, we have evolved into trying to help the country open up its concert halls, football stadiums. We are talking to big organisations about how Mask Our Heroes can come in and sanitise stadiums and help combat the problems of people not being able to come together.”
It is the first time the Mask Our Heroes ambassadors have all met up since working with the charity and Hassan, who has personally clocked up thousands of miles delivering kit, added: “It’s nice to give them a gift as a thank you – and the great thing is we aren't stopping. The first aim was to help the frontline workers, predominantly in the NHS, but then it expanded across shops to prisons to police stations.
“I found myself doing five to ten jobs a day and it was exhausting. But it just motivates you. I brought on Calum and Jimmy and Anton and they kindly pulled themselves away from their families, put themselves at risk to help the frontline workers for the charity. It fills me with great joy that we can all come together, have some fun, get dressed up and show our appreciation. You never know the style with Angelo – he’s so out there and a bit of a visionary. You just have to trust him. With Angelo’s stuff, you pull it off the rail and you go ‘I’d never wear that.'
“But as soon as he puts it on you and jazzes it up, it works.” Hassan continues “He breaks down barriers. Men in their 40s and 50s tend to wear clothes that are plain, not as loud and lairy but Angelo blends it brilliantly and makes you feel really special. The masks are amazing too. It’s a little bit special, the colour’s great and it fits good.”
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The tragedy and circumstances surrounding his father’s death inspired businessman McGahan to use his expertise and contacts in procurement and supply chains to get the right equipment to protect the UK’s frontline workers. Sourced from established medical supply groups, the PPE is validated and confirmed by the European or North American governments. Speaking at the launch, McGahan said: “It’s hard to imagine that we have crammed so much in in six months. We have an incredible team and charity and I know my father would be chuffed. The work that they have done and the money they have raised and the amount of PPE that has been delivered has been extraordinary.
“This is a big thank you to them, thanks to Angelo. It’s been a hard graft and very emotional and not just for me. Make no mistake going into a hospital, a hospice or an old peoples’ home and seeing what has been going on in those buildings has been hard for the boys to see. There’s been a lot of tragedy. So this is a breath of fresh air for them.”
McGahan put together a strategy for the Angelo Galasso event through his business network and is talking to major organisations about the implementation of Covid-safe events. He explained: “I think we have worked hard together to try and find ways that we can run events like this, in a public place, in a safe environment. “There are three or four ways this can be done, key things – you have to make sure the environment is safe and we have done this by bringing in RN Bioservices who have formed a partnership with Mask Our Heroes.
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“We have ensured that the shop is completely sanitised by using a special fogging formula, UV, and sticking to the government guidelines by keeping space, keeping distance. We have gone one step further by carrying out testing on everyone who has been invited to the shop today and Angelo has very kindly designed these beautiful masks which are filtered and we are happy that these masks follow the government guidelines.
“I think the collaboration is a tremendous opportunity for brand awareness for the charity and the work Angelo has done dressing the ambassadors is wonderful. All of them look great – Calum and Tamer have come off particularly well. It’s very chic and very unique. The mask he has created is beautiful, very cleverly designed.”
In August, McGahan and the charity commissioned a report into the current state o PPE provision in the UK and with startling results. The investigation revealed that many health settings are still facing shortages of equipment amid a second wave. McGahan does however feel the country needs to quickly bounce back from lockdown to save the economy and national institutions. He said: “I think this is a glimpse of the future – the concrete base is you have to start by testing and you have to know whether people are contagious and then there is a straightforward method we can all follow to make events safe. And this can be scaled up.
“Once you know someone is negative, provided they are using the right sanitiser, providing the event – whether a store, or an event, a stadium, a concert hall – has been sanitised correctly, we believe we can create an environment that its 100% safe, with the right mask, the right space.
“We have to find ways of getting these businesses and people back to work.
“Our number one priority is the safety of people but we as a charity have recognised that this virus is something we have to learn to live with for six months, for a year, forever maybe. I think there is a fun message here today and a lovely collaboration between the charity and with Angelo but also a very important message that we can demonstrate to other businesses, that we can run events safely.”
During a four-hour fitting, the ambassadors were given fashion tips by Galasso who talked about his 40-year career in clothing design before posing for photographs with the team. One of them was Soccer AM TV host Jimmy Bullard, who played professional football for Fulham and Wigan Athletic. He spoke of his hopes for the event becoming a springboard for larger gatherings, including football matches. Bullard said: “We feel comfortable in a safe environment. What we have done today is on a small scale but we need to safeguard people. And it needs to be done on a bigger scale.
“That could be a positive from this – I think it will be a magnificent day when the fans are allowed back. Imagine being a footballer on the pitch that day. That makes part of me wish I was still playing. I’ll be honest, I didn’t realise what a difference it would be without the fans. To go to these big grounds and not have the singing, footballers I speak to every day can’t believe what a difference it has made to the games. It’s not the same, it’s very difficult. The crowd let you know whether you’re up, whether you’re down – you need that inspiration. Every game looks like a training game now.
“I think you are going to see a lot more footballers, clubs, managers, chairmen, have a lot more respect for the fans in the future. We always knew that fans made an impact but maybe we took it a bit for granted.”
And on being given his own personalised face covering with proceeds going to the charity, Bullard said: “The mask is different class – a serious touch from the big man himself – thanks to Angelo for all he has done. I’ve always loved my fashion and I went for black because that suits me. It suits my personality I think. Love it. Nice bit of snakeskin up top – love my animal print. Style and quality – beautiful.
“Tamer has been amazing and he pulled me in as his soldier to help deliver PPE to the frontline and then six months on we are in this Knightsbridge showroom. Amazing.”
Ex-West Ham and QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, a fellow ambassador, echoed Bullard’s views and explained: “This is definitely an example of how things can work – on a small scale – but concert halls, the sports industry, fashion, it’s doable as long as we take the right steps which we have today. We can be a blueprint, we are trialling and testing this.
“We came in, we got our Covid tests and within ten minutes we had our result. If I can go somewhere and get tested for Covid I am going to go there. The speed of the testing surprised me and how quickly I got the results – who wouldn’t want that? For the public and on the playing side.
“If you can go to a sporting event and get a test even if you don’t have the symptoms – people are just curious, it’s an incentive to go to an event.”
Ferdinand said he believed smaller clubs will soon go into administration unless the government and football’s leaders find ways of allowing supporters back in, adding: “It’s not the same watching a game of football – the atmosphere is what you watch football for. It’s heartbreaking. “If you look at the EFL, the Conference even, some clubs are going to soon not be able to pay wages. The only way to stop that is to get the fans back.
“Covid isn’t going anywhere soon so we need to learn to live with it. We are helping the real heroes – people look at myself and other footballers and think we’re the heroes, but we are not, it is the people fighting diseases like Covid.”
Ambassador, model and TV personality, Calum Best added: “One of the benefits of working for this epic charity is that Angelo asked us to come down here and put on these suits. These suits are quite flamboyant and it’s an honour and a privilege – I like to dress smart, some might say dressing well is a form of good manners and I like to think I have good manners.
“The custom details on the shirts, like the sleeve where you can wear your watch on the outside, is a great touch.
“The mask is pretty snazzy – who would have thought, at any point in my life, that I would need a customised mask? But now we do. I wanted to do what I could in these crazy times and play a part in trying to make things better. We have been supplying the NHS and the frontline with what they need. We went to Doncaster airport and literally watched this 747 fly in, completely gutted of all its seats and people, and filled with boxes of PPE, and that is a pretty powerful thing to see.”
To donate to Mask our Heroes, go to maskourheroes.org.uk (the contest is now closed)
For the Article on GQ click here.