When we made the decision to offer masks through our website, it was important to us that we partner with small makers who are bringing about good in the world and making a positive impact on their local communities. We applaud the resilience, creativity and resourcefulness we’ve seen from so many businesses that have shifted their business models and services in order to meet the needs for newfound essentials, and we wanted to join that effort.
It’s always been in our DNA to support artisans and makers with a story to tell, while being conscientious about quality, materials sourcing, fair wages and ethical working environments, but now these things seem more important than ever.
After multiple quick sell-outs of our beautiful Anchal masks, our Boston-based partner Gupta Media introduced us to Dawne Hoeg, the founder of Stitch Buffalo in Buffalo, NY. Hoeg started the organization six years ago as a community project for refugee women who had settled in the Buffalo area.
An instructor in the Textile and Fiber Arts Design Department at Buffalo State College, Hoeg saw an opportunity for these women to use and expand upon sewing and embroidery skills they had acquired in their native countries and in refugee camps, and at the same time bring awareness to the presence and value of the area’s refugee population.
“We’ve been able to educate our community about what the refugee population is and what it’s like to resettle, and the gift that these different cultures bring to our city,” says Hoeg. “Our pieces are truly a result of each woman’s creative expression, I think it really holds the expression of true creative freedom.”
When Hoeg had to close Stitch Buffalo’s doors a few weeks ago due to COVID-19, it was a tough time for the organization she had worked so hard to build—many of the refugee women she employed had children at home and husbands who had been laid off. But when the opportunity to partner with Favor came about, it seemed like the perfect way to keep going.
“I asked most of the women if they’d be interested in sewing masks, and received immediate responses,” says Hoeg. “We quickly put together sample kits, and now, 16 days since that initial conversation, we’re nearly bursting trying to sew masks for healthcare workers, community members, Favor, and others. I think this is going to pull us through!”
The women at Stitch Buffalo are able to safely work from home to sew masks, using largely donated materials and sewing machines. This work not only allows the women to provide for their families, but brings an added sense of meaning and purpose to their lives during an uncertain and turbulent time. “The sewing is not only a means for making money, but it’s a mental health thing,” says Hoeg. “It’s a way to know you’re able to give back and that you’re doing something productive."
We’re so excited to partner with this organization to offer a new batch of masks—items that look like they are going to be a part of our “new normal” in the immediate future. Our collaboration has involved a few rounds of exploration to find the ideal style, size and materials for the Stitch Buffalo x Favor masks, which has been really enjoyable. Through this process, we were able to donate 150 masks to the Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network (JASMYN).
Each mask is handmade by one of the women at Stitch Buffalo—a refugee from either Afghanistan, Burma or Bhutan, ranging in age from 23 to 70—and a portion of all proceeds will be donated to the Boston Medical Center.