Auburn Apparel Student Makes Protective Masks an Eco-Friendly Fashion Statement

Charlotte Tuggle | Communications Editor

Hospitals facing a mask shortage and crowds wearing protective gear are signs of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting our everyday lives in uncertain and concerning ways. Apparel Merchandising junior Emma Robinson is working to bring a little color to a bleak situation by making matching sets of face masks and scrunchies.

When the College of Human Sciences moved to remote instruction, Robinson began taking classes online and traveled home to Colorado to help her mother recover from spinal surgery. While she had her hands full between school and family, she craved a creative outlet to bring back a sense of balance amidst the coronavirus-induced stress.

Robinson said she’d wanted to learn how to make scrunchies and saw others making masks at home, so she began making sets for friends in the nursing profession. Robinson doesn’t charge nurses for the sets because she considers this her way of giving back to those on the front lines of the health crisis. The demand for the matching sets has since expanded.

“Not only are nurses asking for them, but so many people want them for themselves for going to do essential errands when they have to be in public,” Robinson said. “I think I am going to be making these for the next few months, realistically. I have had people donate fabric to me, so I have plenty for anyone who wants one! I think even after quarantine ends, people are going to be cautious about going back to our old way of ‘normal.’”

Since she started, Robinson has accepted more than 50 requests for matching mask and scrunchie sets from all over the country.

In order to make them, Robinson cuts the fabric, irons it and sews it into the correct shape. Every scrunchie takes about six minutes to complete, while the more complicated masks take about 15 minutes each. She produces them herself and sells them through Instagram for those who want a unique, CDC-compliant look.

“Even though the idea of wearing a mask in public probably wasn't something anyone was looking forward to, by making them myself and having matching scrunchies, it’s a mini fashion statement, and it's eco-friendly since they are washable,” Robinson said. “I’m able to not only provide a good for other people, but it's also given me a creative outlet that is having a very positive impact on my mental health as well.”

Robinson said for those who want to start a project of their own, nothing is too small and there are no bad ideas when it comes to helping others.

“Life is going to be changed forever because of this, and we can't be negative about this pandemic, because it's real and it needs to cause a change in how we live,” Robinson said. “Offering to take someone groceries, making masks, tipping extra when you get takeout, making some DIY house cleaner, all of these seemingly small things can actually have a positive impact.”