Face it: We need to wear masks, so they might as well be cute

Local designer creates stylish masks to slow the spread of coronavirus


Last week, the latest in a string of public health orders to slow the threat of coronavirus in San Diego stated that employees who interact with the public are now required to wear face coverings, and while it isn’t mandatory for the public to employ such measures, it is highly encouraged.

This latest health order came at a time when business was already booming for local designer (and winner of the 2015 season of Project Runway) Ashley Nell Tipton. Tipton had recently converted her Hillcrest clothing design studio into a full-time face-mask sewing operation in order to provide the public with stylish face covering options (while masks don’t protect against the virus itself, they do help to discourage face touching and to limit the spread of germs).

Timing wise, it turned out to be prescient: “Truthfully we had created a line of “fashion masks” to launch because we saw that they were becoming popular, not knowing that three days later, our lives would dramatically change,” a Tipton spokesperson explained via email.

Since the public health order was issued, Tipton and her team have been slammed. “We have ramped up production as best we can. Finding everything (including workers) has been a challenge. We are mostly concerned with our donations to health organizations and are getting those out first,” the spokesperson said. In addition to creating masks for sale to the public, Ashley and her team are also donating masks to health care organizations upon request.

Tipton’s mask designs are much like her clothing design aesthetic: bright and colorful, with eye-catching prints and vibrant patterns.

A few favorites: an orange polka-dotted print featuring Frida Kahlo’s image (Frida pops up a few more times, on a print with sugar skulls and also on a plain black background); a black shiny mask for those who are all about public safety, but still want to make it sexy; a tarot card print and a simple black-and-white polka dot print (personally, I bought one for myself in the polka dot print, and also had one sent to my grandma up in North County so she can stay safe in style).

Some designs are already sold out, but Tipton and her team are working overtime to fulfill orders. The masks are handmade and consist of three pieces of fabric: two cotton and one felt filter. Straps and adjustable and can be fit to any size. The masks are washable and reusable and are currently shipping within 10-14 days, although my orders shipped within days.

For an insider’s look at her current operation, Tipton has begun regularly updating her online blog with progress and stories from the front lines of mask manufacturing during this global pandemic. For more information or to purchase a mask, visit