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Mask fashion enables creativity


Looks like Future got it wrong: instead of singing “Mask Off,” we’re all putting masks on. To curb the prompt spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control officially recommends that people wear facial coverings when leaving their homes for essential purposes.

When the virus first broke out, people hurried to stock-up on Personal Protective Equipment, such as face masks and gloves. This stock-buying of PPE has caused its demand to far exceed its existing supply, leaving both civilians and healthcare professionals alike without access to them.

In light of the lack of supply, many are sewing their own masks at home, and companies in various industries have also started producing masks. The increased individual production of masks have enabled many to use them as a creative outlet for fashion.

Community members, including Mattie Taormina and Julie Taylor, have taken matters into their own hands and are giving back to their communities by donating their homemade masks.

“My next-door neighbor gave me some elastic, old aprons and bedsheets she didn’t want and I made a prototype, (which) worked. Next, I made masks for her, (myself) and my family,” Taormina said. “As the pandemic raged on, I thought this would be a way for me to help my community, so I have been volunteering my time to make these after I get off work and on the weekends.”

What started out as simply making masks for Taormina’s family has since turned into a community-wide project. Taormina said she initially started out small, offering each of her 14 masks to anyone in Palo Alto who needed it. 11 minutes after Taormina made her post, all the masks were gone and had received 55 requests for more.

“I’m blown away, actually,” Taormina said. “To date, I have successfully supplied 311 face coverings for people. Some of my creations have been shipped overseas to Holland. This really made me feel good that I’m helping to make our citizens feel more comfortable in this uneasy time.”

Taylor, too, has decided to use her talent to help others in need during the pandemic.

“I was inspired to sew free reusable masks because I was seeing in the news that many in the medical community had a need for them,” Taylor said.

Taylor said she has donated her masks to her friends and family, medical clinics, Palo Alto Unified School District bus drivers and more.

Taylor had little initial experience with sewing, and said that anyone can make their own mask.

“I have a sewing machine (and some) basic sewing knowledge. I also had a stash of donated fabric, thread and time to make them,” Taylor said. “Once you know what kind of mask the organization needs, you’ll eventually streamline your process and will be able to mass-produce them at a quicker rate.”

The demand for face coverings is higher than ever, and with the national lack of medical-grade masks, people have been forced to search for new ways to stay protected. Etsy, a commerce website, disclosed that between April 4 and 6, people searched for masks on the site an average of 9 times per second, totaling more than 2 million searches in less than 72 hours. Supply on Etsy has also exploded, and the number of mask sellers on the site quadrupled in the last week of March and the first week of April.

Celebrities like Billie Eilish, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande have also made an effort to help the music community during the pandemic. These celebrities are selling cloth masks through the “We’ve Got You Covered Project,” where 100% of the proceeds go to the MusiCares organization, which helps out members of the music community by covering a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies. 

Large companies have also started producing masks and making donations. Dicks Sporting Goods, Forever 21, Amazon and Disney have all added masks to their shelves, and a new company, MaskClub, which launched on April 10, offers subscriptions for monthly face masks.

Put together in four days by Trevor George, also known as the CEO of Trevco, MaskClub uses their funds to help support first responders while allowing customers to personalize their masks with characters including the Powerpuff Girls, Batman and Hello Kitty.

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