Fighting Zika with Fashion

Currently wandering across Asia, I have to admit it crossed my mind to venture out to South America. For years now Peru has topped the list of must hit places. When in the region, why not explore neighboring Ecuador as well? It was all very tempting.


Yet, when faced with the growing Zika presence spreading across Brazil and into other countries, including regions in America, I have since removed South America from the possibilities for this trip.


Despite our limited knowledge about the long-term effects, the fear of potentially putting future children in harm’s way has me firm in my resolution to outwait the threat before reveling in the extraordinary cultures of South America.


Is it dramatic? Possibly. Yet here I am, not charting out a course to climb Machu Picchu or signing up for one of Keteka’s Galapagos adventures.


At the end of the day, I’m lucky. For many in affected countries, merely altering travel plans isn’t an option. Instead, mosquitos pose a daily threat.


Which is why when I discovered Maternova’s recent project I got so incredibly excited. They are currently launching an entire line of clothing dedicated entirely to protecting women against Zika.


Yes, clothing that beats Zika. It’s so simple it’s brilliant.


Creating innovative measures to save newborns and mothers represents the core mission of Maternova. They blend cutting-edge technology, innovative approaches and a global health approach to bring life-saving products to the market.


Clothing that fends off life-threatening or disease carrying mosquitos fits right into the ethos of their company.


Luckily for other women worried about the threat of Zika, their crowdfunding campaign aims to bring this entire clothing line to market in a big way. If you’ve been altering your travel plans, worried about the threat of mosquitos in your upcoming adventure or live in an area in Zika’s growing zone, then this product is for you.


Eager to learn more, I connected with Allyson E. Cote, Maternova’s Co-Founder and Vice President. Let’s just say that the more I learn the more I am in love with this product.


Fashion protecting moms to be and newborns against Zika.


How Does it Work?

If I hadn’t encountered Permethrin prior to a Dominican Republic trip, the idea of clothing repelling mosquitos would seem far-fetched. It’s a wash in or spray insecticide for clothes.


Unfortunately, Permethrin and many other repellants aren’t safe for expecting mothers.


“The nanotechnology imbues a Permetherin free repellent into the fabric. This makes it safer for women of reproductive age to use as protection against Zika and other vector-borne illnesses.”


By repelling the virus-carrying mosquito, the clothing also protects against malaria, dengue, chikungunya, and Lyme as well.


“The fabric has been tested to withstand over 50 washing before slowly losing its efficacy.” In short, it works, “Remarkably well!”


Creating Effective Options

This isn’t the first product on the market to protect against mosquitos.


“There’s quite a few actually. But the majority are Zika preparedness kits containing topical repellent and condoms. Also insecticide sprayed bednets are deployed globally in many high-risk countries.”


“I think they are effective for their intended purpose. But obviously the bednet is only going to work while the person is inside of it. Even then, nothing is 100% guaranteed. Take into account many (or most) homes in high-risk countries do not have window screens, which increases the risk tremendously. The topical repellents are also effective, but in our research we discovered cultural preference for protective apparel over spray on insecticides.”


The challenge is creating solutions that people use.


“There’s no shortage of protective apparel out there, but we found two things. First, the design can be less than flattering, and not necessarily something the majority of women can relate to. In our research, we found most protective apparel was designed by sporting goods companies. We wanted to give women an option that was more feminine and cutting edge.”


“Second, the demand is strong for health worker apparel. We are developing that as well.”


Flattering designs matter. It’s not the only component. Designs must take cultural aesthetics into consideration. If solutions aren’t culturally accepted, they won’t be used.


“Acceptance and adoption of innovations is EVERYTHING to stopping the spread of these types of health crises.”


Distribution – Reaching Those Most Vulnerable

With Zika slowly spreading from country to country, women all over the world can take advantage of Maternova’s new clothing. Some need it more than others.


“We have been lucky enough to partner with Americares, one of the largest NGO’s globally. With their assistance, we’re targeting Latin American countries (Colombia, Brazil, El Salvador to start) distributing, and hopefully the USA as well.”


“Our design partner, Alessandra Gold is Brazilian so this hits very close to home for her.”


This is the really exciting part. Currently the full Zika protective garment on the crowdfunding campaign comes in at $125. Obviously for those in rural communities in Latin America, that price tag far exceeds their buying power. That’s where the social enterprise model kicks in.


“We’re still working on the pricing, but our goal is to use a portion of each sale to send no cost garments to women in low-income countries. No one should have to forgo protection because they can’t afford it.”


Expanding Designs

Maternova and Alessandra Gold have designed a sweater, a dress, a scarf and leggings. They are in the process of developing health worker uniforms.  While the first waves of clothing items focused solely on women, the most vulnerable to Zika, Maternova plans to launch new men and children lines soon.


“We want to do everything we can to stop microcephaly, and that means focusing on pregnant women first.”


That doesn’t mean their current line doesn’t provide tremendous versatility in combatting mosquitos.


“Alessandra Gold designed a beautiful scarf that can both wrap a baby or cover a crib. So when mom is out with her baby they can all be safer. We will hopefully have a line for men and children soon, but we want to do everything we can to stop microcephaly, and that means focusing on pregnant women first.”


The Next Step

Can a fashion line protect moms to be and newborns against Zika? One company believes it can - and has the product to prove it. Maternova’s crowdfunding campaign is in full swing. For as little as $20, investors all over the world can help bring this innovative product to market, helping increase the impact in protecting mothers and newborns in the most targeted regions. This project proves that with a little ingenuity, an amazing mission and a dedication to thinking outside the box, we all have the potential to solve so many of the issues facing the world today.


If a new fashion line can beat Zika, what else is possible? I’m positive that when Maternova is involved, the possibilities truly are endless.


As mentioned, the new Zika Protective Appeal is designed to help protect all women (and soon men and children as well). If you frequently answer the wanderlust call, traversing to areas where mosquitos pose a serious threat, then this new line hits the essential list for packing. You can check it out here.




Curious about other clothing companies making a difference for mothers around the world? How about a baby swaddle with an incredible cause? Babies4Baibies has exactly what you are looking for. Their incredible business model works to make an impact on multiple fronts: sustainable sourcing, ethically made and saving 4 lives with every purchase.


Now that’s a mission! Check out the podcast episode with Babies4Babies founder Kate Marie Grinold Sigfusson here.