San Diego's Immigrant Designers Pitch In To Help Protect Their Community
San Diego, thanks to its large immigrant and refugee population, is now home to fashion designers from all over the world.
But when the coronavirus hit, their stores had to close. Many of them quickly transitioned to making masks for the COVID-19 crisis.
On Saturday, those designers helped give back to the community. Several volunteers handed out fashionable masks to drivers and passersby on El Cajon Boulevard, while vendors were set up nearby to sell their masks nearby at the Fair@44.
“It’s a great way to showcase designers in City Heights,” said Beryl Forman, who works for the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association. “With facemasks that was a really great opportunity for anyone who knows how to use a sewing machine, alterations, and making a business from it and figuring out how to survive.”
Each mask costs $8. For $15, customers can buy one mask and another to be donated to the public.
Anisa Mohamed and her father Ali Awow moved to San Diego three years ago from Kenya. They’re part of the International Rescue Committee’s Small Business Development Center and run a tailor shop in the Minnehaha food market.
Ali transitioned quickly into the mask market.
“It wasn’t hard for him to make the mask at all,” Anisa told KPBS. “He knew what patterns he should use. He also taught me. We had a lot of orders to make, so the entire family was helping.”
The plan is to make this a monthly event.
For designers like Lili Klu, whose facemask business has taken off during the pandemic, it’s an opportunity to showcase the neighborhood’s diversity, even during perilous times.
“It’s so amazing, it’s good to see other people to help the community,” Klu said. “It is inspiring, if we can continue doing this, it will help the community.”