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Giving Up Crystals, Ballgowns and Corsets for Heavy-Duty Functional Fabric Masks?

Written by Andrew Hazen  |  27. March 2020

By Kimberly Towers

I could probably make a ballgown quicker than 40 masks. But we are learning quickly. And we are making them faster each day ......

My name is Kimberly Towers and I am a co-owner of Runway Couture in Bellmore New Yorkwww.RunwayCoutureNY.com

Who would ever have thought we would find ourselves in this situation? But here we are ... all together yet physically all very apart. We are called in by the pleas of the US government to help.  We have the ability to construct masks and that is what we will do. During this time of crisis, the professionals are accepting fabric because many are left without protection.  

So because I have the most amazing team, or shall I say, family, in the world, which we call Runway Couture, these amazing and passionate human beings jumped into action like you have never seen. Led by my business partner Blanca Fuentes we began to do research. And I mean A LOT of research!  We will DO this 24/7. We will get it done! 

How can we make the best and most fabric protective mask we can?   It will never be an N-95. We cannot get that grade of medical fabric but now the government is asking for fabric.

So I called my buddy who happens to be my talented tech guy/ website designer. His mom is a lead nurse and she called her supplier and got me these amazing guidelines - Fabric Surgical Masks Information

We followed it and I learned about making masks and laundering.  We found a contact and got the fabric described in the guidelines!  To our surprise, I had to launder first! So Mara and I did A LOT of laundry.   Let’s just say, I am out of All Free and Clear pods! In the meantime, Blanca began her research.

Blanca made the first prototype.  And then did it again and again to perfect it. She molded a wire for the nose. She got the mask as fitted to the face as possible and she perfected the pattern with love.

Mara spent tireless hours tracking fabric. When every place was closed she tracked down the owner’s cell numbers.  Mara jumped in a car and drove to the city herself so that we would have the fabric one day earlier. Does this sound crazy?????  I love my girls. ❤️

I got on my phone and every social media outlet. How could we get to the medical frontliners?  I asked for anyone who needed help to reach out to me. I heard stories of nurses wearing paper towels and rubber as masks. This is NOT okay. Then, just as I had hoped, calls flooded in. I was hearing, “The hospitals are overloaded, the doctors and nurses are working non-stop, the patients are sick and highly contagious.”  They need HELP and fast!.

My partner began to cut patterns for her perfected masks and produce her “kits “. She cut until her fingers blistered. She did not stop!

In the midst of all of this,  the two of us have small children at home. We need to remember to make our homes a happy place. Our children make rainbows to put smiles on people’s faces and we put them in our windows. Neighbors walk by, and you know what, they do smile. We read books in between the craziness and have dance parties while trying to play teacher also.  

My entire team jumped into action. I was inundated with phone calls and texts and messages. Joan grabbed them for me and started to respond and make lists of needs while I contacted hospitals. Then, just what we had hoped for, an amazing human contacted me. I probably have known her for 20 years.  Rosemary Coppola. She was a nurse who is now a rep and she knew so many people who needed help in the medical fields. She knew what our local hospitals were going through in Long Island and NYC. They were without masks and they were putting their own lives on the line to save others. She offered her help. She is one of our main distributors now.  She now helps us with pickups and drop-offs of fabrics and other essentials and waves as she leaves everything at our doorsteps.  

Keep in mind we are All WORKING REMOTELY. IN OUR OWN HOMES. WE HAVE NEVER BEEN SO PHYSICALLY SEPARATED. YET WE HAVE NEVER BEEN SO TOGETHER AS WE ARE RIGHT NOW.   How quickly things change. 

We sewed and sewed and sewed !!! Our team grew and grew .... our seamstress staff kept growing! The list of friends and clients that reached out to me to help was endless.

The laundry became a bit too much. Please don’t tell my hubby..... I can do laundry and I am actually good at it! My secrets out! We have 60 yards of fabric ... our little home machines felt inadequate. Once again amidst the hundreds of texts. An incredible friend, Bonnie Yormack, texted me late at night asking what she could do.  I told her about all the laundry. In 5 minutes the connection was a made and another amazing businessman came to the rescue ... Andrew Howard cleaners of Syosset. https://andrewhowarddrycleaners.com/   He was a sudden lifesaver. He laundered the many yards of fabric which cut our production time in half! 

An important thing I need to point out is that my entire team is donating their time. Individuals driven on a mission. We cried when the first delivery went out. We cried at the second. I have never been so proud in my professional life.  

I have made many beautiful couture creations in my life, loved them and felt passionate about each design. I never imagined my drive and passion would turn to making masks. I am now driven by the possibility of protecting a life. We are on a whole other level here. And you know what? It is our duty. I have such a respect for the medical frontliners out there. .... you are the true heroes. 

All of this .... as challenging as it’s been, as exhausting as it’s been and as rewarding as it’s been.......it has been life-changing.  I will forever be grateful for every ordinary day. Every day we are given health as a gift. I will Celebrate every sunrise. Normalcy will be smiled upon.  I will forever Focus on the positives. I will cherish the quality time with family, remember to take it down a notch and not rush through the day but to take a moment to search for that rainbow in the window. 

Photo credit: Julia Linekin

On a side note ....... I feel I do deserve a medal for homeschooling a kindergartener this entire time.  I have an entirely new respect for teachers, doctors and nurses and everyone else who is on the frontlines helping to combat this bizarre war we are dealing with.    

I have a whole new outlook on what matters in life and I am happy that I and my Runway Couture Family and partners have the ability to be an active participant in combating this war. Stay safe...stay well… stay positive… stay strong!

XOXOXO

Kimberly Towers
RunwayCoutureNY.com

www.facebook.com/runwaycoutureny/

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