Meet the local designers making masks and protective equipment to help keep Savannah healthy
Spring has historically been an inspiring time for Danietté Thomas: With proms around the corner, and summer wedding season on the horizon, the fashion designer and founder of Danietté is usually just gearing up for her busy period. This March, Thomas found herself confronting a different reality. As coronavirus shut down retail stores and forced citizens into shelter-in-place, Thomas realized that her usual spring work process would take a different shape this year.
After hearing about personal protective equipment shortages from her mother, a nurse, Thomas started making masks to donate to Savannah hospitals. “It felt like one of the only ways I could do something to help, to create something positive during such a challenging time for people,” she says. Here’s how Thomas and other local designers and makers have been using their design skills to support public health efforts to combat COVID-19’s spread.
ABODE/WALKER CUSTOM METAL
Reports of hospitals running out of personal protective equipment compelled Brian Walker, founder of Walker Custom Metal, to team up with Christy Rippetoe, co-founder of Abode, to produce 3D-printed face shields for local hos- pitals, doctors and hospice care facilities. “This was born out of wanting to support our front- line workers in any way we could,” says Walker.
“I knew about Chrissy’s work, and thought: Let’s team up and do whatever we can to help.” Together, they’ve donated more than 1,000 shields to date.
At Abode, which offers creative workshops, studio spaces, retail and events that aim to connect and foster community among local artists and artisans, Rippetoe and her team also launched an Abode Mask Force, rallying community members to make hospital gowns, masks, surgical caps and mask ear savers — small clips that help masks wearers avoid the painful pinch of elastic on their ears — among other equipment.
“The requests came in daily when we got started, and it has been really overwhelming to feel the support of the community,” says Rippetoe.
BUCK + DOE
Designer Jessica Pope was inspired to start creating masks after she donated fabric from Buck + Doe, the bowtie company she runs with her husband, Trae Gurley, to a friend in California who was making them there.
“I had a lot of materials and could get elastic, which there has been a huge shortage of, so I knew I had to help where I could,” she says.
Pope even enlisted help from her grandmother, who taught her how to sew. “My grandma helps me cut fabric from her home in Idaho and then sends that to me,” she says.
To date, they’ve fielded more than 3,000 requests and have donated more than 1,500 masks to healthcare workers around the country. buckanddoegoods.com
BLANK CANVAS DEVELOPMENT
For Anna McCraney, mask making became a form of self-care as she and her product development studio found their pieces stuck in production this spring with factories shutting down around the country.
“I started channeling my anxiety into dyeing fabrics in my backyard,” she says.
McCraney started making masks to give away, but soon connected with local and national sewers, pattern makers and other designers who had been furloughed.
Blank Canvas Development has sold more than 700 masks to date, employing sewers in Savannah and beyond, including Texas, New York, Ohio and elsewhere.
Shortly after she began making masks to donate to local health care workers, Danietté Thomas also started designing fashion versions for sale, in sequin-covered and tie-dye fabrics, donating a mask to someone in need for every order purchased.
The requests rolled in right away: “I was so inundated with orders, I had to put my phone down,” she says. So inundated, in fact, that Thomas had to hire a few seamstresses to help with production shortly after launching her collection online.
“Prior to the coronavirus, I didn’t have any employees,” she says. “I’m grateful that I’ve been able to employ people in this crazy time — it has definitely been a small silver lining in all of this.” $10 and up; daniette.com
This Whitaker Street shop offers a DIY kit that includes supplies to make 10 masks, including a non-woven material for filtration and fabrics in a range of patterns, from bright florals to geometric designs. $25.99; measurefabric.com
LADY JANE CLOTHING
Designer Abi Kingaby is offering a free fabric mask with any purchase at her Etsy store, which carries vintage and handmade pieces for men and women. etsy.com/shop/yourladyjane
Designer Lane Huerta offers children’s fabric masks in whimsical animal designs, featuring dragons, kittens and panda prints.