The pandemic has caused many to repurpose their skills and talents. But Debbie never predicted she’d be swapping wedding dresses for medical scrubs.
Debbie Rees, from Wokingham’s Keep Hatch area, had her bridal shop dreams paused in March as the Covid-19 lockdown caused many local businesses to close.
Having only launched the Rances Lane business last September, the Government measures led Debbie
to furlough her new staff as dress enquiries and bookings grounded
to a halt. It reopens this weekend.
And despite working as a one-woman team to keep the business going behind the scenes, Debbie has been volunteering her skills to community initiatives in a mission to keep the borough’s NHS workers equipped with PPE.
Debbie, who started her career at 18 as the first female cutter on Savile Row, says: “I joined the local Hot Scrubs project when I saw they were looking for helpers.
“The group brought together 65 local seamstresses to make much needed protective wear for Royal Berkshire Hospital.
“For three weeks, we carried out shift work at Phyllis Court in Henley. I’d volunteer there in the morning and then go back to the shop in the afternoon to do my own work. In total, we made 5,000 intensive care gowns for hospital staff.”
In addition to her work for Hot Scrubs, Debbie has joined the Scrub Hub programme which produces scrubs for keyworkers including hospital, prison and care home staff.
Ms Rees says: “I’ve made scrubs for all sorts of places and in various colours and patterns.
“The system is extremely organised. We pick up the pre-cut material from a collection point and then put the scrubs together.
“I’ve never made anything like this before so it took some getting used to at first but the organisation provided us with a YouTube tutorial which was helpful for working out where the various pockets went.
“It’s been a great experience through which I’ve made friends and been part of an incredibly encouraging community.”
And reflecting on what would have been the busiest period for her dress business, the creative says: “Having only opened in September, the lockdown was unsurprisingly a kick in the teeth.
“I have such a fantastic team of staff which I’m very grateful for and miss dearly so I am definitely looking forward to business starting again.
“I have used this time as an opportunity to check stock over and sort out the new dresses coming in.”
She reopened her shop, Debbie Rees Bridal, on Saturday.
For more information about the scrub projects or to donate to the Just Giving pages visit their Facebook pages.