SD Union Tribune | FWSD Designers helping fight COVID19

Posted on: April 16th, 2020

Fashion designers turn their talent into making face masks, scrub caps and protective hospital gowns

Local fashion designers have enthusiastically pitched in during the coronavirus crisis with the intensity of designing for a masked ball.

Haute couture is secondary to utility wear as they turn their sewing and design skills to filling a crucial need for face masks with items on hand — fabric scraps, hand-printed materials, strips of elastic . . .

Facing a shortage of elastic, bikini designer Melisa Price, of L Label Loves EMvee Bikini, is making her washable masks with donated fabric tied behind the head with “extra bikini strings I had from an old project.”

“I will be making more masks until I run out of fabric or until my fingers fall off,” she said.

Sharlene Borromeo tackled the shortage of elastic. The Sharlene of A’doreus designer managed to get spools of elastic donated to the cause from a Mira Mesa company. She measured and cut 8,640 yards of elastic for face masks and has distributed them free to people sewing masks.

Fashion model Kelly Bañaga and her mom are making scrub caps, along with face masks and gowns, for hospital workers at Sharp Memorial Hospital where a friend of Bañaga’s works as an ICU nurse. The model also shares a DIY tutorial blog on how to sew a surgical cap on her Instagram account.

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Fashion model Kelly Bañaga and her mother made colorful scrub caps for health care workers after a friend who works at Sharp Memorial Hospital mentioned the need.
(Courtesy photo)

Nicole Tsikounas, of Nikki Marie apparel, has created reusable four-ply muslin masks with a pocket for an air filter. For every one bought by a customer, she donates one to a local hospital, nursing home or essential business.

“We are so thankful for our selfless healthcare workers on the front line and essential workers risking it every day,” she posted on her Facebook.

Should anyone want to make a fun fashion statement, Bryan Vaughn of VaughnBerry has incorporated some whimsical designer fabrics in his mask offerings. Unicorns, anyone? Glazed doughnuts? Buff cowboys?

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Local designer Bryan VaughnBerry is using whimsical fabrics to make face masks.
(Courtesy photo)

At least 16 participants of Fashion Week San Diego, which highlights up-and-coming designers, are working hard to do their part, like modern-day “Rosie the Riveters” of the World War II era. They are working hard behind the scenes to give hospital workers an arsenal of protective armor so they can remain healthy to fight this viral war.

While the masks they make are not the N95 respirator variety, they are better than no mask in a severe shortage. Plus, they can protect the workers in off-duty hours or function as washable, reusable covers for the surgical face masks.

There are small, medium and large masks designed for the mouths of infants, toddlers, children and adults. There are masks for different head sizes. Talk of pet masks is on the horizon.

“The fashion community has really stepped up,” says Allison Andrews, founder of Fashion Week San Diego. “A gaggle of designers, past and present, is making masks and donating, selling or providing them for free. … It’s pretty incredible.”

Many are giving the masks to medical workers and people in need. Other designers are offering them for just the cost of postage or selling them to cover material costs.

Bea Cruz is making masks to send to health-care workers on the front lines in her native Philippines, which also faces a critical shortage of protective hospital gear.

Even Fashion Week San Diego’s lead photographer, Louis Gonzales, has made a DIY tutorial video on creating masks with items people have at home. A T-shirt mask can be made in just three minutes.

It’s not just fashion designers and members of sewing clubs who are making face masks. People with forgotten sewing machines, stashed years ago on a closet shelf or in the attic, are dragging them out and turning them on. That is very exciting news to Andrews in this age where school home-ec classes are but a memory.

Along with the face masks, these designers each are creating an outfit based on a painting for the group’s next event at Sotheby’s auction house in New York City in July. “It’s still on the calendar,” says a hopeful Andrews. So is the big Fashion Week San Diego (FWSD) show and competition this fall.

The group’s website message speaks for all of us: “With all the uncertainty the world is facing right now, FWSD is feeling especially appreciative of those working tirelessly to ensure the safety of others during this pandemic. Thank you to everyone in the healthcare field, to all of the grocery store workers, to the truck drivers … you are all heroes.”

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