The former race car driver talks about the importance of designing consciously, and creating a sustainable future for the industry.
As we all learned—or relearned—over the pandemic, those in need are as numerous as the ways that we can help. For racer-turned-fashion designer Mark Bumgarner, knowing this sparked the idea for The Armor Project.
Responding to the shortage of personal protective equipment for medical frontliners in June 2020, Bumgarner’s label sprang into action.
“Due to lockdowns, it was very difficult to gather the manpower and source fabric that we needed to create PPE’s for our front liners,” he shares. “But we made it happen and were able to produce a few thousands of PPEs that we donated to various hospitals around the Metro. I used to drop them off, myself, at hospitals.”
The designer adds that the project that started as a philanthropic effort became a venture when regular people noticed the PPE’s designs. He then started producing athleisure-style protective gear different from those donated to medical frontliners.
Quarantine restrictions made sourcing new materials for the collection difficult. Because of this, The Armor Project’s masks are made of fabric acquired outside the country, which was originally intended for the designer’s past couture collections. In May last year, the protective masks were launched on his brand’s website and sold out within hours.
Using zippers and fabric usually used in premium sportswear brands, Bumgarner applies a contemporary aesthetic in designing protective gear. For added function, the designer developed a style that is “self-stowing,” making the outwear useful for travel and easy storage.
And with sustainability in mind, pieces from The Armor Project are designed to still be used post-pandemic. The men’s bomber jackets would be ideal for rainy days, while the ladies jumpsuit would provide you with an outfit workable from day to night.
“If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught me, it was to be mindful of use, purchasing and wastage of raw materials. Every time I develop a collection, most of the materials are from my existing materials, just executed differently,” Bumgarner shares.
He says that conscious design is a key element to maintain sustainability in a fashion brand. “Designing classic pieces to stand the test of time and trends, to me, is one way to sustainability. So I always try to infuse this idea in my collections to make the pieces longer lasting, or pieces that can be passed down.”
He notes that quality is essential to making pieces that will last. Buying from local brands would also lessen negative environmental impacts as the shipment of imported goods releases harmful toxins into the ecosystem.
“The fashion industry is still learning how to best elevate its social and environmental standards but I think we will reach a point where sustainability is the norm,” Bumgarner says. “We need to look into our own practices, and adapt to the evolving movement.”
The full story on Mark Bumgarner is in Volume 2 of Lifestyle Asia 2021.