With the current COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a shortage in Personal Protective Equipment for front-line workers. Local luxury handbag designer, Diana Von Grüning, saw this and felt called to help. Over several weeks, she has stopped production of handbags to help donate hundreds of hand-sewn masks to front line workers. We spoke to Diana herself to learn more about how she’s helping fellow Canadians during COVID-19.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
I’m a luxury handbag designer in Toronto and because of the COVID-19 outbreak I’ve stopped production of my handbags to focus all my company’s manual efforts on developing COVID-19 cloth & filter masks to donate to front-line workers in the local area during this time! I’m also teaching people how to make these types of masks from home with a simple step-by-step pattern and instruction kit available for free download on my website. I’m also posting all my research on the site to spread the word about the benefits of wearing and making masks like these if you’re in public during this pandemic. Now that we’ve ironed out the production process we’re making and distributing roughly 50 – 100 reusable masks daily
What problem does it aim to solve?
Numerous experts agree that wearing a mask of any sort that creates a barrier between you breathing and the people coughing and sneezing around you is a good idea! I’m using this time to teach people more about that and help get masks to the people who need them most like nursing home staff, nurses, cashiers, and those who are high risk for corona virus. Wearing a mask also is a safe reminder not to touch your mouth – often nail bitters don’t even consciously know that they’re putting their hands in their mouth so it’s a great last line of defense against accidents like that as well.
When did you start/join it?
On March 9th Canada confirmed it’s first COVID-19 related death and it occurred to me on the 20th of March that the situation was becoming more concerning and that I needed to do what I could to take action. So the first day and a half my father and I worked together to heavily research and eventually develop the product with the consideration of 5 main factors:
1. Efficiency regarding time spent making each one.
2. Least material being wasted.
3. Effectiveness in terms of facial coverage and finished product’s theorized and researched ability to block out droplets.
4. Comfort for long-term use with different face sizes.
Because of my line of work, I have a number of specialty industrial sewing machines that were able to be set up to make the masks. I was able to quickly source the elastic used for the ear loops and the material (which is a tightly woven, high thread count, “downing” cotton) and filter layer (melt-blown polyurethane) came from my shop! I feel honoured to be able to use my equipment for the purpose of serving my community during this uncertain time and I have met some incredible people in the process. I’m grateful for every front-line worker and am happy to do my part to keep them even just little bit safer!
What made you want to get involved?
On the 20th it simply occurred to me that I had nearly all the material I would need to make at lease a few hundred masks, I had the design and drafting experience to design a product I can confidently put my name behind and donate to some very important people during such an intense time and on top of everything I own 14 sewing machines and have the time and experience to make this really happen! I would be ashamed of myself if I were not doing this right now considering I completely have the ability to make a positive difference! It also took off very quickly; Within the first few days I supplied masks to nurses at Seinna Living Long Term Care, nurses at St.Mike’s Hospital in Toronto, the staff at the North York Women’s Shelter, cashiers at Loblaw’s and NoFrill’s, staff at Toronto General Hospital and so on.
What was the situation like when you started?
It took me a little while to get into the flow of how to make the masks as quickly and finding the best ways to make them – There’s more than one way to make a mask! But once everything got ironed out in terms of producing the masks social media worked its magic with getting the word out to everyone and people have been so amazing and helpful. One gentleman even brought me a few boxes of sandwich bags to pass the masks out in! It’s the little things!
What more needs to be done?
I need to keep sewing and spreading the word so people head over to my site to download the sewing pattern to make their own! I also need to find a way to source more new material affordably because I’m making masks now at such a rate that I’m quickly going to run out of all my materials. The public needs to take action to protect themselves and others and this is a great way to help out!
How can our readers help?
Stay home and wear a mask if you’re going out – simple! In order for us as a global community to recover from Covid-19, we all need to recover from covid-19. So please be considerate, practice social distancing and if you are a seamstress or know one – pass my website along with the info on how to sew these masks and all of my research to back it up!
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
Right now I’m all about The North York Women’s Shelter, I’ve been in contact with their Executive Director because she reached out to me to grab some masks for their staff and tell me a little bit about their cause and I am in love with the vibe I got from both the Executive Director and Executive Assistant who were so enthusiastic about representing what they do at the shelter and just spreading charity and kindness in any way possible. Great work ladies, thank you for all you do, you are absolutely inspiring!