With shops closed and lines of supply tenuous, many fashion designers and clothing makers in Montreal and in other cities are turning to making masks both to survive during economic uncertainty and to help provide a newly essential resource. We spoke to three Montreal designers about their patterns, their materials, and what they listen to to keep them company during lonely days spent in front of a sewing machine making masks.
Jasmine Wasfy of Boutique Lustre, Lisa Bobrow of Ramonalisa and Jennifer Glasgow of Jennifer Glasgow Design all fell into mask-making through client requests. After Glasgow took a picture of herself wearing a mask and put it on Instagram, “the floodgate opened.” Likewise Wasfy received some client requests and started “playing around and doing samples.” Now she makes about 50 masks weekly, which, working solo, means about three and a half long days of “cutting, sewing and prepping.” She’s still making clothes and works six days a week. Bobrow meanwhile had initially intended on making headbands with buttons to help alleviate ear discomfort for those wearing masks all day, and fell into mask production by creating a “modification in the design to solve that problem of ear hurting.”
All three of these Montreal designers are using fabric ends from their usual clothing lines for their masks, though Boutique Lustre also provides shop towels to use as disposable filters, noting a Business Insider article about their efficacy. (Glasgow and Bobrow’s masks also both have a pocket in which people can put their own shop towel filter).
These designers are all devising their own patterns, some modified from the many free mask-sewing patterns floating around social media. As Wasfy points out, “we’re a lot of designers in the same boat — we might be making clothes for 20 years but we’ve only been making masks for three weeks.” You may also have heard that elastic has become quite scarce, so some designers are trying out alternate designs. Glasgow for instance is using fabric “spaghetti” (think spaghetti strap material) and notes it might actually be preferable as “it’s softer and easier to manipulate.” Bobrow incorporated research into average differences between male and female skulls to work on making her masks more comfortable. She “kept seeing people wearing [masks] incorrectly” and realized that “if you can’t wear it comfortably, people aren’t going to wear it.”
Now, what are these sewers listening to during their many mask assembling hours? Glasgow’s a big dancehall fan, and Wasfy favours podcasts and sitcoms to feel a little less lonely. She points out that sewing is actually very noisy, so you need something that doesn’t require your full attention. Bobrow’s been “missing [her] Sunday night old-time country and bluegrass at Barfly” so among others she’s been listening to local musicians Katie Moore, Li’l Andy and Veranda.
A reminder that these designers are all making non-medical grade masks, but public health officials are now recommending their use for the healthy as well as the sick. The Atlantic published a compelling account of why you ought to go do your groceries in this type of mask. ■
Visit the Boutique Lustre site here.
Go to the Ramonalisa site here.
Check out the Jennifer Glasgow Design site here.
For more Montreal fashion coverage, please visit the Style section.
To read the latest issue of Cult MTL, click here.
(Three Montreal fashion designers making reusable masks)