As the owner of the luxury travel bag company Tone Bekka and a mother of three, Jovanna Robinson had her hands full even before the coronavirus hit Ohio.
But once it did, the graduate of the Columbus College of Art & Design believed she had a gift that could fill a need and contribute to the well-being of others — with flair.
“I said, ‘Maybe people can step out in style,’” she said. “Because my first love has always been fashion and style.”
So Robinson, 37, of Gahanna, became one of the central Ohio designers and business owners using their skills to create trendy, stylish masks.
It comes at a time when residents of Franklin County and other parts of the state are now required to wear face coverings in public due to spiking COVID-19 cases.
More masks mean more opportunities to use the face coverings as a fashion accessory or form of self-expression.
Robinson said she saw people making masks that paired with head scarves, so she decided to add her own spin by making mask and clutch sets, which sell for $70. Masks on her website are available individually for $10 in designs that include colorful African patterns and superhero motifs.
Alyssa Hill, 28, owner of Hello Harper Company — a small handmade children’s clothing shop in Mt. Gilead — said she began making face masks after her boyfriend’s sister, who is a nurse, requested one. Word spread, and she made an Etsy account where other customers could purchase them.
“I made a few to donate, and then people were like, ‘Wait, I want to order,’ and I was like, ‘OK.’ It just kind of went off of there and, obviously, all my family (who) had ordered posted on my business page and then it just went crazy,” Hill said.
Hill said she can complete seven or eight masks within an hour, and that she uses four protective layers. She uses three layers of quilting cotton and then one layer of cotton interfacing fabric to act as a filter.
While children’s masks aren’t among her top sellers — despite the focus of her company — she does offer “Mommy and Me” mask sets and “Daddy and Me” sets. Hill charges $10 for each mask, and she said that with each purchase, she makes an extra mask that is donated to essential workers.
Robinson said she donates a portion of the proceeds from her mask and clutch sets to the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, African Americans whose deaths earlier this year have galvanized protests nationwide.
Khola Waddy-Jones, 42, an influencer from German Village, isn’t new to wearing face masks. Even before the pandemic, she said she wore face masks to the airport after she took a trip to LA in 2013 that left her with the flu for seven days.
Currently she has a collection of fashionable masks that she wears to go with her numerous outfits. Some include sequins or African prints.
“That’s how I picked them — what I like and that will help me express myself and what matches what I’m wearing,” Waddy-Jones said.
She purchased her first masks via Etsy, but when she learned that local designers were making masks, she started to buy from them.
“I thought, you know, if I’m going to support, I’m going to support my local community and my friends,” Waddy-Jones said.
Some Columbus based designers she purchased from are Joan Madison, Genoveva Christoff and Gerardo Encinas. She also purchased an African print mask from Robinson.
“You can get them to coordinate with what you have on, you can make a statement with it — even support causes,” Waddy-Jones said. “You have to be creative with it, and it helps to get rid of (COVID-19).”
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