Lauren Gabrielson is a Brooklyn, NY-based fashion designer known for her chic, wearable women’s pieces as well as her adorable “mommy and me” custom bomber jackets. But she recently made headlines for a different sort of design—pivoting her business to make masks for hospital workers. We spoke to Lauren, mom to daughter Hobey (3) and Christopher (6 months), about what sparked her to take this initiative, how it’s helping her cope during this Covid-10 crisis and how we can help.
What a great initiative! Can you please share the basic details?
We’re making cotton masks for hospital workers—doctors, nurses, medical workers. It came about after Governor Cuomo held a press conference enlisting people to help make personal protection equipment.
So these are cotton—which is different than medical masks?
Yes. I was speaking with my sister, who is a pregnant nurse in Arkansas, who told me that cotton masks that you can breathe through would be helpful because they still protect the mouth and nose. People are in desperate need right now and using whatever they can find. At first I was just going to send these to my sister but after I posted on social media, and on the HeyMama group, nurses around the country started asking for them.
So how much does making these makes cost?
It is $200 per day for one seamstresses’ salary and we get 75 masks out of that. So today I went in this morning, which is of course a juggle with two kids (my husband and I have been taking shifts). This morning I cut another 150 masks to be sewn and she will come in tomorrow, just to be extra safe now. At first, we were together in our big space in Williamsburg. First, I asked one of my seamstresses and it was just the two of us. Now, I have another seamstress is working from home.
Are you funding this initiative yourself—and are you accepting donations?
Yes—to receive government funding you need medical grade materials. Honestly, I don’t even know how I’m going to pay my rent for my office space, so I just want to cover my expenses and make as many as I can. Donations are welcome—my Venmo is lauren-gabrielson and firstname.lastname@example.org is my PayPal.
What if people need masks?
They should email email@example.com.
You’re a small business and a mom, living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in New York City, which has become an epicenter for the crisis. How has this been cathartic for you?
As a small business it’s so scary right now and this has given me a focus as something that is doing good and helping people, and it stops me from being so up and down. We’re all feeling this whirlwind of emotions, from being grateful to spend time with my family and then terrified about paying rent. I feel so good that I can keep two of my staffers employed and it’s giving me a purpose.