As the owner of the luxury travel bag company Tone Bekka and a mother of two children, Jovanna Robinson has her hands full even before the corona virus hits Ohio.
But once that happens, a graduate of the Columbus College of Art & Design believes he has a talent that can fill the needs and contribute to the welfare of others – with talent.
“I said maybe people can come out in style,” he said. “Because my first love has always been fashion and style.”
So Robinson, 37, from Gahanna, became one of the designers and business owners of central Ohio who used their skills to make trendy and stylish masks.
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That came at a time when residents of Franklin County and other parts of the state were now required to wear face masks in public because of the surge in COVID-19 cases.
More masks means more opportunities to use face coverings as fashion accessories or forms of self-expression.
Robinson said he saw people making masks that were paired with head scarves, so he decided to add his own round by making mask sets and clutches, which sold for $ 70. The masks on his website were available individually for $ 10 in designs that included patterns Colorful Africa and superhero motif.
Alyssa Hill, 28, owner of Hello Harper Company – a small handmade children’s clothing store in Mt. Gilead – said he started making face masks after his girlfriend’s sister, who was a nurse, asked for it. The news spread, and he created an Etsy account where other customers could buy it.
“I make some to donate, and then people like, ‘Wait, I want to order,’ and I’m like, ‘OK.’ “It just kind of went away from there and, obviously, all my family (who) had ordered it posted on my business page and then it just went crazy,” Hill said.
Hill said he could finish seven or eight masks in one hour, and he used four protective layers. He uses three layers of cotton and then one layer of cotton cloth to act as a filter.
While children’s masks are not included in his best-selling sales – regardless of the company’s focus – he does offer a “Mommy and Me” mask set and a “Daddy and Me” set. Hill charges $ 10 for each mask, and he says that with each purchase, he makes additional masks donated to important workers.
Robinson said he donated part of the proceeds from his mask and clutch set to the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, African-Americans whose deaths earlier this year sparked protests across the country.
Khola Waddy-Jones, 42, an influencer from the German Village, is not new to wearing face masks. Even before the pandemic, he said he wore a mask to the airport after he traveled to LA in 2013 which made him have the flu for seven days.
He currently has a collection of fashionable masks that he wears to go with his many clothes. Some include sequins or African prints.
“That’s how I choose them – what I like and that will help me express myself and what matches what I’m wearing,” Waddy-Jones said.
He bought his first mask through Etsy, but when he learned that a local designer made masks, he began to buy from them.
“I think, you know, if I will support, I will support my local community and my friends,” said Waddy-Jones.
Some of the Columbus-based designers he bought were Joan Madison, Genoveva Christoff and Gerardo Encinas. He also bought an African print mask from Robinson.
“You can make them coordinate with what you have, you can make statements with him – even support the cause,” said Waddy-Jones. “You have to be creative with it, and that helps get rid of it (COVID-19).”
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