For many fashion, handbag and accessories brands, the spread of COVID-19 has meant shuttering their brick and mortar shops and facing dwindling online sales. By pivoting to make face masks instead, many are finding a way to keep their businesses going while also serving a great need.
With healthcare workers facing critical shortages of face masks during the coronavirus pandemic, people like fashion designer Dexter Flawk are dealing with their own anxiety by directing their energy towards making as many masks as their two hands can handle.
Others are organizing networks to sew and distribute masks. For example, Irene Lee, founder of kids’ clothing brand Bash + Sass, and her friend and chef Michael Hung launched SewMuchLove to spread awareness to individuals, brands and companies that can sew, then support and connect them to distribution channels.
“I was overwhelmed by the response on both fronts—from the amount of people inspired to start contributing and the amount of nurses and healthcare workers in desperate need of masks,” Rader said.
Initially, many of these makers sought to donate to healthcare workers on the frontlines whose hospitals were running critically low on personal protections. Then, when the CDC recommended that everyone wear masks in public, making them became a way to keep their businesses afloat and their seamstresses working while funneling profits to healthcare workers, other essential workers, and homeless people.
“Selling them felt weird, until my mom complained that she was the only person in her grocery store at 6 a.m. without a mask and I realized that people needed them,” said Etsy seller Amanda Caroligne.
It’s a win-win for “non-essential” small businesses who face an uncertain future. Many of the masks are not a replacement for the N95 version that many healthcare workers on the frontlines require. But many can be worn over an N95 to preserve it longer, and all of them offer at least some protection.
Plus, they’re more stylish than anything you can buy at the hardware store, and I’m all for anything that mitigates the weirdness of wearing a face mask at the grocery store.
Below is a list of some of the designers and makers who are working their fingers to the bone to serve their communities and, in some cases, save their businesses.
Designer Alan King has been making masks for years—he calls his styles “future ninja wear”—so he was poised to create an economical mask: each disposable first aid mask is just $1. He also has some reusable covers still available starting at $30—or go for a vegan python version for $100.
Founder Alyssa Casares has been working on masks non-stop for a week. Initially she was donating them to healthcare workers, but now everyone needs one. Casares is donating the masks to healthcare workers; for personal use they are $25 each, which proceeds going towards mask materials and shipping to healthcare workers. Three day shipping or contact free curbside studio pick up in San Francisco.
This brand has stopped production of its “greatest hoodie ever made” to retool its North Carolina facilities and retrain its team of seamstresses to make HHS-certified medical masks. The brand is distributing masks to front line medical personnel at a rate of 35,000 masks per week and hopes to “aggressively” increase its production rate going forward.
Kuschel is a ready-to-wear and bridal designer who raised more than $10,000 to make 2,500 face masks that fit over N95 masks. Her GoFundMe is still going strong.
This origami-inspired brand usually makes handy, beautiful, reusable bags for transporting cooked dishes or flowers to parties, but in the absence of parties, they’ve pivoted to 100% sustainable, organic cotton face masks. They used their origami skills to tweak the design, and use fabric ties. Plus it hangs around your neck rather chicly when not in use. For every mask purchased for $28, they will donate one to healthcare workers. You can also donate to their GoFundMe.
Last week, this California-based surf-apparel brand pivoted production in their Santa Ana factory to produce masks for people on the front lines supporting those affected by COVID-19. Buy one general-use, reusable mask constructed with two layers of SurfStretch for $20 and the brand will donate to CORE, Sean Penn’s non-profit that’s working in partnership with the L.A. Mayor’s office and fire department to provide free drive-through testing for high-risk individuals at seven sites throughout Southern California. Birdwell has committed to donating 3,500 masks to CORE’s workers and will continue to fulfill their needs until testing is no longer needed.
Based in San Francisco, Skikos has asked her seamstress to create 100 masks to donate, and plans to ramp up efforts next week to donate to homeless people and accommodate orders. Keep an eye on her website for availability and updates.
For each organic cotton hand made-in-San Francisco pair of masks sold, 70s-inspired Camp Collection will donate another set to an essential medical worker (non-medical). Each set comes includes one white mask with contrasting red tie and another white mask with a blue tie. Or by a set of 24 masks for $154. Launched just a few days ago, founder Tamar Wider says the program is already producing more than 1,000 masks.
Founder Candice Cox is spearheading an effort to make stylish masks for the masses (toddlers, kids, and adults) in cool prints and solids. She’s got just a two-person team, so sign up for the newsletter to find out when you can order again on Monday. You can also donate to their masks program here.
This bag brand has introduced Caraa Cares, an initiative to get non-medical grade masks into the hands of as many people as possible. The masks are reusable, washable, and made to be comfortable of repurposed materials from its production line. While supplies last, purchase a pack of 5 for $25 for yourself or donation. The brand is also matching all mask pack purchases and donations.
Christy Dawn creates etherial, sustainable dresses, which she still does, but she’s put sustainable face masks front and center. For just $30, you can buy five for your family and donate five. Also get a free mask with an order over $150. The masks are currently waitlist only, but you can get notified when they become available.
In normal times a macrame-inspired jewelry brand, this California studio is currently devoted to making masks. Founder Kelli Ronci is former craft editor for Martha Stewart and freelance prop photo stylist is sewing around the clock Buy one for $19, and Corda will donate one to an essential worker. Expect 1-2 weeks for delivery. Also check out her blog post on how to create masks yourself.
In mid-march when this San Francisco brand learned of the mask shortage, its founders teamed up with The Seamsters Union to donate supplies to home sewers making masks for workers on the front lines. Now that the CDC has recommended everyone wear masks, they’ve been sewing non-medical grade masks. While supplies last they’re including a face mask with orders of $150 or more—and they have a beautiful selection of comfy pieces perfect for hunkering down.
This streetwear brand is selling face masks made from the brands signature fabric with two elastic bands for a secure fit. They’re available in cloud denim, camo, DP monogram, black, purple haze, smog grey and seafoam for $25, and get one free on orders of $50+ with code: MASK.
If you’re in the SF Bay Area, check out this list of Etsy sellers who are sewing masks for both sale and donation.
LA-based For Days, a zero-waste clothing company that lets you swap out old items for new is now selling masks for sale and donation. A purchase of five for $25, donates 5 to healthcare workers.
This women’s denim brand has produced 10,000 non-medical masks which are now available on its website for just $5. With every purchase of a mask, Good American will donate one mask to partners in the community and local businesses in need. The brand also procured and donated approximately 30,000 FDA-approved N95 masks to 18 hospitals and clinics across the country. It’s also donating denim to hospital and staff in partnership with Pitney Bowes.
Stylish but subtle, these masks are made of 100% cotton, and come in ikat, denim, and several other prints. The masks are reusable and some are reversible. Get four for $40 or an 8-pack for $70. If you’re in Sausalito, California, you can drive up to the shop’s front door to purchase. The brand has also donated more than 900 masks to local hospitals, health care facilities, plus elderly and low-income communities.
These made-in-Hawaii masks are made of sustainable fabrics, and one of the few we’ve seen that make kids as well as adult sizes. They’re also one of the most economical starting at just $9.
Normally they make bags, now they’re making masks as Joshu.org. Those with filters cost $30, without are $20, and both purchases also donate one to a healthcare worker.
If you’re in the market for some seriously fancy protection, this may be the mask you’re looking for. May is a bridal designer, so her masks are made with sequins, lace, and crepe fabric at $19-$45 each. Plus, the straps are adjustable.
Tomlin had to shutter her fashion business, but the wife of the Pittsburg Steelers coach continued to pay her four employees. When she realized they could make masks, they all went to work making 500 per week. They are currently focusing on donations, but sign up for the mailing list to get an alert about when they will be available for purchase at $48 for five in adult or kids sizes. And you can read more of her story here.
This ine jewelry brand is selling handmade, pleated masks for $27 made of buttery soft cotton velvet.
Get to the site early to call dibs on the approximately 1,000 masks she’s making each day. They come in 6-packs of assorted prints for $95. And stay tuned, she is having the masks tested and hopes to report on their effectiveness soon.
This Ojai, California brand has pivoted from making avant-garde luxury leather handbags to making double-layer cotton woven face masks with pockets for filter inserts. They have a few for sale to the general public which is funding donations to healthcare workers and others in need.
This men’s suiting brand uses math to create the perfect fit. Unfortunately suits are not a quarantine staple, so the brand transformed its facilities into mask production factories. The gender-neutral masks are $19 each, with one donated for each purchased. Their goal is 100,000 donations and they’re currently closing in on 70,000.
Moscone has transformed her entire design shop—which typically creates stunning seasonal high-end fashion collections—to focus on producing protective masks. As one of the few designers with an in-house atelier in New York, Marina was able to produce 400 masks with her staff of seamstresses in a matter of days. These masks were delivered last week on April 7 to the ER trauma unit at Bellevue Hospital. Masks are also scheduled to be delivered to Mount Sinai, Cornell, and NYU Langone hospitals.
Fashion brand Tres Nomad has donated more than 7,000 masks by creating a dedicated mask-making arm. With every purchase of a $15 mask they’re donating one to healthcare workers in need.
This eco fashion brand has pivoted its resources to create “second skin” tree fiber face coverings. When you purchase one for $33, the brand donates one to a homeless person in L.A. The anti-microbial, natural, stretchy fabric has an oversized bandana design and conforms to the face for a tight seal. The fabric is double layered with a slip pocket for a (not included) filter. They’re taking pre-orders and will ship by April 15.
This science-based shoe brand is uniquely poised to create masks with the 3D printing technology it already had in place to make shoes. Working with doctors and partner factory LUNA, OESH created a 3D printed mask featuring two vents with removable filter caps. The mask can be washed in a dishwasher, washing machine, or by hand and can be re-used indefinitely. It’s also 100% recyclable. They are currently donating all their masks, but they provide instructions to make your own if you have access to a 3D printer.
Founder Erin Dempsy has made 200 masks so far and donated more than 60 to frontline and essential business workers. They are available in 5 different color and pattern options in small, large and kids sizes. Her online sales will continue to support donations. Masks are made to order $18; receive 10% off with code GO OUTDORZ.
This brand is known for its sassy, colorful clothing, and the same holds true for its 100% cotton masks. At just $12 you get one for you and one donated to a healthcare worker.
This bedding, home and garden brand is making GOTS-certified organic cotton masks from their fabric scraps. The masks are constructed in Seattle from heavyweight woven cotton twill. They idea was born when a nurse asked the one of Plover’s founders for the densest fabric she had and wound up using an old Plover tablecloth to make masks. The price is two for $25 and for every two sold they will donate two to medical professionals. lead time is currently three weeks.
When Dierdra Jones planned her workwear brand launch, she didn’t plan to do it in the time of coronavirus. But since that’s where she finds herself, her first two products are premium cloth face masks made of two layers of woven cotton fabric with pockets for filters and custom copper nose bands for a snug fit. Visit the website on Monday April 13th to pre-order face masks, $19 for 1 or 4 for $65. Shipping starts Friday April 17th.
For each mask sold for $25, Ripley Rader will donate two to healthcare workers. She started with the #millionmaskchallenge two weeks ago when she personally made 100 masks in 2 days. She has since launched her own effort, “Look Good Do Good.” For every mask purchases, she donates two to at-risk pattens and healthcare workers in need.
On March 21st, Rashima Sonson temporarily converted her bowtie business into a mask-making operation. The brand has mailed weekly care packages of between 25-50 masks to hospitals around the U.S. She’s also selling brightly-colored print masks starting at $11.50; $17.50 for the reversible model. They’re made of quilters cotton, premium cotton, and African fabric, which have higher weave counts and picks per inch, making them ideal per CDC guidelines. This team of two is taking its second round of pre-orders on Monday, April 13.
If you want to keep that rave vibe going when you venture out to the supermarket, this brand has you covered. The pleated masks are colorful and fun and feature carbon-filtered masks. To order, Venmo @supersugarrayray $15 per mask plus $7 for shipping and include your shipping address. Shipments will go out by the end of next week.
Instead of suits, this tailoring team has been making contour-style masks meant to hug the face in three sizes for children, small/medium adult and medium/large adult. They feature three layers of cloth on the front of the mask, one of which is filtration. The cloth has been sourced from within their shop or donated by luxury wool cloth mill Dormeuil (perfect for executive Zoom calls). The $25 masks are currently sold out but watch the website for restock. Proceeds go towards keeping their tailoring team employed and Give2SF.
This Oakland, California mother/daughter team is creating beautiful, repurposed cotton face covers using leftover fabric from their 2019 Kotton collection. The business had just signed a new lease when the shelter-in-place kicked in, and pivoting to masks has kept the company going and allowed their staff and factory to continue working. For every one sold for $21, they donate one to a healthcare worker, senior, or someone in need. Donate to their project here.
Tea’s design director launched an effort back in March to make protective masks from Tea’s spring and summer material scraps. She and her daughter made more than a dozen masks for a San Francisco hospital and are continuing to sew for caregivers in need in other cities including Los Angeles. Tea has also created a how-to so anyone can make a mask themselves.
This wearable art (in the form of jewelry, bags, and apparel) brand floated making face masks on Facebook and Instagram, and demand has been so positive that the business has now devoted its entire front page to the protective gear. At $20 each, they’re made of denim and other cotton fabrics, and have space for a filter.
As of March 28, Jeremy Castro completely pivoted his apparel business Brand Marinade in San Leandro, California to focus on masks. His operation has already shipped 2,000 masks, and by end of this week, T-Masks will be making up to 1,500 every day. Castro is also donating masks, including N95s. 40,000 surgical masks will be on their way to essential workers next week with the help of Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch.