Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Fashion designer turns mask crusader

Published:Monday | April 6, 2020 | 12:21 AMBarbara Ellington/Gleaner Writer
Some of the face masks produced by Tamia Carey.
Some of the face masks produced by Tamia Carey.

As hospitals globally grapple with a shortage of N95 masks and everyday commuters hunt for non-medical options, top fashion designers in the United States and Europe are converting their operations into personal protective equipment factories.

From names like Christian to Prada, to Samantha Sleeper and Nancy Volpe Beringer, to Jamaica’s Bill Edwards and Tamia Carey, many designers have accepted that a return to the runway is a distant dream amid the COVID-19 pandemic and are instead sewing for the greater good.

Some fashion houses are now making protective gowns, but masks are the big-ticket item now, and Carey took inspiration from Los Angeles-based Michael Costello, who made an appeal live via Instagram to production houses to make them.

“I reached out to L.P. Azar, who said they had hospital-grade fabric in stock. They also put in an order for some of mine that they would like to donate to some hospitals,” said Carey, who revealed that she began making 1,000-1,200 weekly and has sold out.

With movement discouraged because of social-distancing protocols, Carey also delivers. Customers can pay online, but they may also pick up orders on Saturdays and pay by cash or debit card.

Carey said that she is heartened by calls from stores downtown who order her washable masks for their employees.

“The owner of Chocolate Dreams has also called to order masks that her team can wash overnight and wear again the next day,” Carey told The Gleaner.

The masks have also come in handy for the senior members of her own family who wear them when going out in public.

While the Jamaican Government has officially stated that masks are primarily for infected persons or for healthcare workers treating coronavirus-positive patients, Prime Minister Andrew Holness was seen sporting a mask on the weekend while admonishing vendors and shoppers at Coronation Market to keep their distance.

Carey, a mother of two, also applauds the Government for closing schools, citing how challenging it is to keep children from touching everything, so she hopes that post COVID-19, all Jamaicans will maintain a habit of extreme cleanliness everywhere.

“Ultimately, I would like to sew enough masks to supplement what has been given to doctors and medical staff, and I hope that my cost per mask will also cover what I am planning to donate. It is a great concern to me because we are a poor country and our needs are great.”

As the orders have increased, Carey has brought in extra seamstresses to help with production as they are now churning out 300 masks a day.

Prices range from $1,000 for two masks for a single person, to $1,800 for four masks for a couple. There are also packages for families and single parents.

Orders can be placed by calling 876-373-3116 at 11-12 Ardenne Road, Kingston; email: They also deliver.