Brooklyn residents have shown their creativity and resilience once again, adapting to the requirement to wear face masks by getting behind their sewing machines and making them for each other.
Businesses and individuals from across the borough are crafting an array of designs with different fabrics and structures to give us a range of choices. And it has become clear longer lasting masks are the wise decision; the new accessory will most likely be around a lot longer than the COVID-19 pandemic it is responding to.
Here are some local makers stepping up to the challenge:
Next of Kim
Founder of Bed-Stuy store Radical Women Kim Hill has turned her home into a mask assembly factory; cutting, sewing and ironing in her dining room.
Hill is making masks from colorful, African cotton fabrics that fit snug on the bridge of the nose and under the chin, but loose over the face with adjustable elastic behind the ears and an inside pocket for disposable filters.
The masks are hand and machine washable and can be bought here for $12 each.
Brooklyn-based clothing designer Zam Barrett was following the news of COVID-19 before it had taken over the city, and quickly started making covers for N95 masks with his team.
The team has moved on to making masks with filters mostly using densely woven cotton, but masks are available in a variety of fabrics, all backed with polypropylene filters. He said his motto was safe plus stylish, fashionable plus functional. The masks retail from $25 here, and Barrett is working on a limited edition mask for sexual assault awareness day Denim Day with the proceeds going to women’s shelter Magnolia House, along with 200 masks.
Does It Even Matter
Michael Nicholas of Flatbush-based fashion and lifestyle brand Does It Even Matter said the company had redirected its materials and manpower to making masks.
The team is using jersey cotton, poly mesh, and poly fill for the masks that he said are high quality and designed to last, with the “hold and handle” of any sportswear item.
You can buy a 3-pack for $30.
Prospect Lefferts Gardens designer Naomi Mishkin of Naomi Nomi was instantly overwhelmed with orders when she started making masks, getting 12,000 in 72-hours. She is working from home, with other team members working from their homes, to craft 100 percent cotton masks using fabric meant for her upcoming Spring collection.
The masks are hand and machine washable, and she said to think of it as the latest addition to your intimates collection. Masks start at $18, and when you buy one, one is also donated to a healthcare worker. They are available for purchase here.
Harriets By Hekima
Hekima Hapa, behind Harriets By Hekima and Black Girls Sew, has set up a small production area at her house where she has been sewing masks with her two daughters for the past four weeks, producing around 500 a week.
The masks are 100 percent cotton with elastic ear straps and are usually Ankara prints, and come in both kids and adults sizes. She is selling the masks on her Instagram for $15 each or 3 for $30 and is blind shipping them.
Debrief Me mask producers was established before the COVID-19 pandemic, and in response has moved a lot of its production operations from China to its Industry City factory in Brooklyn. Debrief Me founder Matt Silver said the masks made in Brooklyn were cotton and cotton blended, with filters coming from China.
He said their everyday face mask lasts up to two years, and the filter masks last up to five years. The filters last up to one month and are not washable, but the masks are. They range from $13.90 – $24.90 and are available at www.debriefme.com
Geo Suggs, behind Crown Heights brand FVN Clothing, pivoted to mask making after realizing there would be a shortage in supply and motivated by his own experiences with asthma.
Suggs is using scuba fabric, a polyester knit, because of its water-resistant qualities, for the masks that wrap around both ears and are form fitting over the mouth and nose. Suggs said the masks are machine washable, on a delicate cycle.
The masks retail here for $15.
Brooklyn Army Terminal based clothing manufacturer MCM Enterprises has pivoted to importing and making masks for those in need.
On top of importing disposable and surgical grade masks to donate to frontline workers, the team is using cotton and nylon to make washable, reusable masks that retail for $10-$15. If you are in need of a mask, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can donate here to support.
Brooklyn-based shoe manufacturer Atoms has shifted production to making masks. The masks are made from polyester, nylon and PU with a copper thread for its antibacterial purposes. The mask is washable up to 30 times, after which the copper will have worn down and it will be like a regular fabric mask.
For every mask sold Atoms is donating one, and they company is not taking a profit from the masks. They retail for $10.
La Cleaners and Tailor
La Cleaners and Tailor owners Lily La and Tony Trinh are making and donating thousands of masks for those in need from their Cobble Hill business.
Although their business is closed, the couple are at the store at 130 Union St, sewing and giving out masks for free to those in need, and are accepting tips, donations and food to support themselves and their neighborhood.
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