Designers Create Special Masks for New York State Initiative

Emilee Geist

New York is upping the fashion quotient when it comes to masks. On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo in partnership with his daughter Mariah Kennedy Cuomo and The RealReal, revealed that the state has selected more than two dozen New York-based designers to create masks as part of its “Mask Up” […]

New York is upping the fashion quotient when it comes to masks.

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo in partnership with his daughter Mariah Kennedy Cuomo and The RealReal, revealed that the state has selected more than two dozen New York-based designers to create masks as part of its “Mask Up” campaign that will be sold on The RealReal.

The first was designed by Public School and is a limited-edition black mask with white letters that read: “New York Tough.”

Every Monday through November, five masks will be released, with a portion of the proceeds donated to Feeding America, the New York COVID Relief Fund and Nurse Heroes.

In a press briefing in Albany, N.Y., on Monday, Cuomo said that New York State was the first to mandate the wearing of masks and although compliance can’t be regulated, some 98 percent to 99 percent of people do wear face coverings. And they do it “because they’re smart,” he said, “and care about themselves and one another.”

To further promote the mask wearing by partnering with designers and The RealReal is “a win-win across the board,” he continued, adding that the designers donated their time and designs to the cause.

A #MaskUp campaign will be shared on social channels by the state, The RealReal and the designers to encourage people to post a mask selfie, share why they mask up, and tag five friends to do the same.

Each of the five weekly drops has a theme inspired by one of New York’s core values: tough, smart, united, disciplined and love.

Monday’s theme under the “smart” banner is “I Wear A Mask for Democracy,” and also includes masks by 3.1 Phillip Lim, Mara Hoffman, Nili Lotan and Tanya Taylor.

Other participating brands and designers: are: 4S Designs, Alejandra Alonso Rojas, Alice + Olivia, Altuzarra, Chromat, Collina Strada, Jonathan Cohen, KES, Mi Jong Lee, Michael Kors, Noah, Prabal Gurung, Public School, Rag & Bone, Romeo Hunt, Ryan Roche, Sandy Liang, Studio 189, Thom Browne, Victor Glemaud, Zero + Maria Cornejo.

The Public School mask will retail for $20, Mara Hoffman’s for $28, the Phillip Lim version for $30, Tanya Taylor’s for $45 for a set of three, and Nili Lotan’s for $50. The Public School and Nila Lotan masks are exclusive to the campaign.

“As we continue the fight against COVID-19, one fact is clear: masks help stop the spread and save lives,” Cuomo said. “But, it’s also clear that COVID fatigue is setting in and that presents its own challenge. We need to find creative ways to encourage people to wear masks. The Mask Up campaign leverages the creativity of the New York fashion community to help solve this public health challenge, while simultaneously raising funds for communities impacted by COVID-19. Take a look at the New York Tough masks and mask up. Together, we will beat this virus.”

His daughter added: “At a time when so many are looking for a way to make a difference, wearing a mask has the power to save lives, and is a statement about who you are. The Mask Up campaign unites incredible designers who are deeply connected to New York, the fashion capital of our country. The RealReal and New York State are partnering to harness the power of the fashion community to convey a very simple, but critically important message: Mask Up. Stop the Spread. Save Lives! Our country is still battling COVID-19, and this campaign demonstrates that we can find fun, creative ways to make an impact.”

In May, the governor brought his daughter on board as an unpaid informal adviser to the New York State Department of Health. She spearheaded a campaign to have people create 30-second videos encouraging the wearing of masks. The ads were voted on and the top five were used for public service announcements online, with the top vote-getter airing on television as well.

Julie Wainwright, founder and chief executive officer of The RealReal, said Kennedy Cuomo “has been such a force for driving dialogue about the importance of masking up during the pandemic. We were so impressed by her work with New York’s mask ad contest earlier this year. When she reached out with the idea of working together on a campaign we were thrilled to collaborate and help bring New York’s fashion community into the project. We’ve been working with so many designers this year to support their pivots to producing masks and we’re proud to be expanding that work with this campaign and giving back to communities who have been deeply impacted by COVID.”

Consultant Julie Gilhart, chief development officer for Tomorrow London Ltd., was instrumental in putting the parties together to work on the project and getting the designers on board. “We wanted the group of designers to be a true cross section, from well-known designers like Thom Browne or Michael Kors to up-and-coming 4SDesings to cult favorites like Noah and Nili Lotan. The Public School boys designed the iconic New York Tough mask and Victor Glemaud was inspired by the taxi drivers,” she said.

“As with so many things during the pandemic, it’s hard to plan out time. You have to be quick on your feet and be able to pivot at a moment’s notice. I’m in awe of how all the designers took time to contribute. They carved out the time during wrapping up their selling season. I know they did because they wanted to help and see it as community service to their home, New York. Every designer had very personal expression to why making and wearing a mask was important to them,” added Gilhart.

That was obvious when the designers outlined why they were keen on participating. Public School founders and New York natives Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, said: “We are products of New York and represent the resilience and toughness of that New York spirit so it’s only right that we participated in this campaign. We wanted to design something that represented the power of the people coming together to fight for a common cause. New Yorkers have always had each other’s backs and that hasn’t changed for this pandemic.”

They added that wearing a mask is “the best way to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and it shows that you’re thinking about the collective before yourself.” The tie-in with the charities also spoke to them, they said. “These charities really bring awareness to the wide-ranging effects of this pandemic and reveal some of the holes in our society. We must look out for those who are the most vulnerable and of course protect the ones on the front lines fighting this virus on our behalf.”

Phillip Lim, co-founder and designer of 3.1 Phillip Lim, also felt strongly about participating. “I wear a mask not only to protect myself, but to protect others. Wearing a mask isn’t a political statement, it’s a simple way for us to show respect to our neighbors, our elders, the frontline workers, and everyone who is continuing to fight for the health and safety of our communities.”

Mara Hoffman, founder and designer of Mara Hoffman, agreed about the important of masks, saying they are “for safety — not just for me, but for those that are most vulnerable. It is in the collective that we can overcome this pandemic and I take my role as an individual seriously in this moment.”

She said that she also stands behind the showcasing of Custom Collaborative, a New York City-based enterprise that trains and supports women from low-income and immigrant communities to launch fashion careers and businesses, who she worked with to make her masks. “Any chance for us to use our platform to be part of the momentum needed to move forward and help with relief initiatives, and support The RealReal, partners we cherish as well, we will do.”

In addition, the three charity partners also prompted her to get involved: “Supporting organizations that create accessibility to fulfill basic human needs is a no-brainer. These organizations ensure individuals are fed, protected, looked after — as any nation should do for their citizens.”

Nili Lotan said: “Wearing a mask is a sign of respect and love for my city and my community. The mask is a sign of hope, it communicates a message to those around us that we miss the vibrant culture and lifestyle of this city and are willing to do what it takes to get it back in full bloom.” She said she wanted to participate in the campaign “to do what I can to empower people to be as safe, respectful, and hopeful in this time of deep uncertainty. There are so many creative ways to give back and this is one of them. Feeding America, Nurse Heroes, and the New York State Relief Fund help support the very backbone of this city in this time of need. They work to keep our communities safe and healthy and they deserve our support to keep doing the vital work they are doing.”

Tanya Taylor said: “I respect and follow the CDC guidelines and believe wearing a mask not only protects me but those more vulnerable around me. Wearing a mask felt weird at first but it is a very small action we can all take to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infecting more people. I’ve embraced it as part of how I dress up every day —might as well have fun with it!”

She added that she knows this is a “strange and unsettling time and I understand that wearing a mask is unnerving for a lot of people. I hope that by providing masks in hand-painted prints and bold colors we can help people see the beauty in what they’re doing; protecting their community.” In addition, the three charities benefitting from the initiative “have made a tremendous impact in supporting the communities most deeply impacted by COVID-19 and overcoming the obstacles that the pandemic has presented. I’m honored to be able to support their important and incredible work by participating in campaign.”


Launch Gallery: New York Designers Create Masks for State’s Campaign

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