Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everywhere you go most people are wearing a mask as a protective shield from spreading and inhaling droplets in the air.
While some have been fortunate enough to get their hands on the N-95 version worn by healthcare professionals, others are wearing masks made with cotton fabric at the hands of a home sewer — possibly a friend, relative or someone in the business of selling their handmade goods. And, wearing a mask has become yet another way to express one’s personal style, and perhaps make a fashion statement at the same time.
Lynette Halalay, who, in past years, worked as a model in New York, is theknitting and sewing enthusiast behind Knit Sew Fabulous, a growing home-based business she started in 2010, and moved last August to a studio/shop inside the Collective, 8325 E. Jefferson in Detroit, where other local artists and designers sell their work, as well. Her unique designs are made for women of all ages with a keen sense of style and a passion for fashion.
Her designs have included berets, capes, leather vests, knitted sweaters, shawls, scarves and sun dresses. But, one of the longtime staples in her collection is a free-flowing, slightly cropped top with over-sized, full-length sleeves. It’s one of the pieces she, herself, enjoys wearing, especially during warmer months. Halalay, who always sports a well-coordinated look, decided to make several tops with matching mask, as a trendy two-piece ensemble, referring to it as the “new uniform.”
“I thought it would be nice to have them matching when I go grocery shopping,” she said, adding, there are fewer opportunities to go out and be “fashionable” these days because of the Coronavirus.
The Grosse Pointe Park resident recently started making the sets for her customers. So far, she’s making them with 100 percent polyester so they can “withstand multiple washings,” without any fading or shrinkage. However, special orders are accepted, whereby customers can provide their own fabric.
“We can arrange drop-off (of the fabric) by appointment at the Collective with minimum contact,” said Halalay. “We would then do a video measurement, and arrange for pick-up when it’s all complete. We would do a face-time or a messenger teleconference. They would have within the sewing kit provided, a measuring tape, and I would show them how to measure themselves.”
Because the tops are not one-size-fits all, those that are custom designed will offer a much better fit because “some women are a little bustier than others and that would impact the way the design looks on them.” However, ready-to-wear sets that fit approximately sizes 10-14, are available in her online shop at knitsewfabulous.com.
A top with matching mask, regularly priced at $100, is currently being offered at 20 percent off ($80). Masks without the top are priced at $12.50 each. The shipping cost is$9 and $5, respectively.
The masks are unisex and come in two styles — either with pleats, or contoured without pleats.
With Father’s Day right around the corner, Halalay has just created sets that include a mask with matching bow-tie, priced at $50. The ties are available as either a hand-tie or clip-on.
Like so many fashion designers, Halalay’s skills have been greatly influenced by people in the industry she’s met in her travels. She said, she always puts forth the effort to connect with the “artisan community.” In 2018 she traveled to Japan where she learned Japanese style writing, and “met with the ‘tie-dye king'” who’s famous for Shibori, a Japanese dyeing technique.
And last year, during her family’s month-long vacation in Italy, Halalay took a leather purse making class in Florence. “But the big take-away,” she said, “was (learning) sustainable fashion. As designers, we are responsible for the waste. They had rounded up a lot of designers and looked at the way they made garments, and the waste (leftover) after each collection. So, designers were challenged to use their waste to create a secondary design.”
Since the Coronavirus outbreak, Halalay has decided to work by appointment only, along with online sales, where she’ll offer a larger selection of unstructured garments that don’t require a lot of sizing. She’s also “working on a virtual platform to do fashion shows online.”
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, [email protected] or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.