Sligo designer transforms expertise into face masks in New York

Sligo-born designer Áine Hanson now lives in New York and makes face masks to tackle the state's Covid-19 crisis.Sligo-born designer Áine Hanson now lives in New York and makes face masks to tackle the state’s Covid-19 crisis.

As Covid-19 makes its way across the US, killing thousands, overwhelming hospitals and changing daily lives, authorities have mapped one of their strategies to fight the spread of the virus on one simple device: the face mask.

But as America and many other countries have found out, the demand for masks, most of which are made in China, far exceeds supply.

As a result of the shortage, a global home industry has sprung up almost overnight as people strive to protect themselves and others by making their own masks.

The fashion industry in particular has taken the baton to meet demand.

Hanson in the studio, New York.Hanson in the studio, New York.

Áine Hanson, a Sligo fashion designer who lives in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in America, is one of many in her industry to make face masks as part of her daily routine.

“I knew from the news that there was a lack of medical masks. I was at the end of a weekend and decided to make simple cotton masks for myself, my husband and my neighbors, ”Áine said.

Like millions across town, Áine self-isolated for almost a month, so she put the face masks she made in her home studio into ziplock bags with a small note and taped them on the neighbors. Doors in their block of flats.

“It was just a pet project to help at first, but it’s kind of escalated in the last week or so,” she said.

Áine mentioned to an aunt in Boston that she had not only worked on her range of handcrafted leather bags and wallets, but also made some face masks for her neighbors.

“My aunt told me that my cousin, an emergency doctor in Michigan, only has one medical mask and has to reuse it every day because the hospital has no supply.

“I’ve decided to make a few for him and also distribute some in his department if someone else was in need.”

When Áine added a video about the process of creating the masks to her social media accounts, inquiries were received.

“They really liked the idea of ​​a washable and reusable fabric mask. I also make batches to donate to my local hospital. “

As Áine explained, turning to making face masks wasn’t a big deal: most days she creates samples for new product designs and works from home with all the equipment and materials in her studio.

“I chose a simple silhouette and kept sewing to a minimum to speed up the manufacturing process. The trick in sewing lies in the steam iron. If you press your seams correctly, the rest will follow. “

The material she uses, a lightweight chambray cloth that she had in her closet, is ideal as it is a breathable natural cotton fabric and is machine washable.

For the past month, Hanson has watched her adopted home, where she has lived since 2017, change in the fight against the onslaught of Covid-19.

She goes out of her way to help.

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