Fashion Design Student Makes Masks for her Community

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Marlena's masks in progress.

An interview with Fashion Design student Marlena Prast about making masks to help her community

First off, tell us a bit about yourself! Where are you from, what are you studying and what brought you to PCA?

I am from Connecticut but moved to Paris after living in NYC since 2013. I earned my associates degree in fashion design from F.I.T. and was working as a designer licensing for PUMA. I realized I needed to finish my bachelors and wanted to get out of fast fashion and into more high-end. I always regretted not studying abroad. I started researching and found PCA and fell in love with it. So I decided to come to PCA to finish my Bachelors in fashion design.

Where have you been staying during the pandemic? Are you with family/friends?

I am back at my parents house in Connecticut. I am with my boyfriend and parents.

What inspired you to start making masks? How many did you make in total?

I felt helpless to be honest. I am in one of the most infected areas and 80 percent of my girlfriends from here are nurses, as well as my family. My uncle was put on a ventilator and my cousin and her entire family got sick. My best friend hasn’t seen her kids since March because she is a nurse. I felt like it wasn’t fair and I had the tools and skills to help so I felt it was my duty to do so. I have now made about 400 mask.

Did making the masks affect your studies?

Yes, very much so. I decided to put the people in my community and my loved ones before my studies because it seemed more important at the time. I had nurses at my doorstep every day picking up masks. I did take a break for about two weeks in order to finish my finals and I did finish, but I think I probably would have finished so much earlier and been much less stressed without the added work of the masks.

What materials did you use to create the masks? Did you take donations or did you already have all of the fabric?

I already had some fabric and then I reached out to my community forum and got a lot of donations. I use everything from cotton fabric, flannel shirts, sheets, tablecloths, and I use quarter inch elastic for the ear pieces and pipe cleaners for the noses. I was also fortunate to have a great tailor in our town who supplied me with a lot of elastic which was very difficult to find.

Who did you donate the masks to?

I first made mask for my cousins and friends who are nurses, and then made them in bulk for my friends to pass out at Yale New Haven Medical because they were asking for help. Then as my friends started posting my masks I started getting calls from nurses all over the state asking me for masks. So I created a system where I have a box outside my house and nurses can pick up what they need. I also leave masks in my mailbox for delivery workers to take as needed.

Did you make your own pattern or use an existing one?

I started with the pattern from Yale New Haven but I adjusted it so that it fit the face better and was more comfortable. Also the mask are reversible so the nurses can tell which side was on their face, and they all have pockets to put filters into for extra protection.

Which masks, in your opinion, are the best style to wear? (comfort, efficiency, etc.)

I have made all different kinds, I think the best are the ones with pockets because you can put a filter in, and then it depends on the face shape. The elastics begin to hurt after a while so I also make headbands for the nurses with buttons so that they don’t need to have the elastic on their ears, but I also like when the elastic goes around your head.

Marlena will be returning next semester as a Fashion Design Senior and will exhibit her final collection in Paris Spring 2021.

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