HomeAsian AmericansFashion and philanthropy: this 12-year-old fashion designer is making COVID-19 healthcare workers...

Fashion and philanthropy: this 12-year-old fashion designer is making COVID-19 healthcare workers masks

By Amy-Xiaoshi DePaola, AsAmNews Contributor

A 12-year-old fashion designer decided to use her gift to help healthcare workers battling coronavirus by making masks.

Ashlyn So was inspired when she learned hospitals were in need of supplies during the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic.

“They risk their lives to help others, so I decided to use my sewing skills to help,” Ashlyn said in a phone interview with AsAmNews.

Ashlyn started by making masks for her next-door neighbors who are local doctors and nurses, as well as their relatives who work in hospitals in New York. So far she’s donated over 150 masks to hospitals around the country, including her home state of California.

“The masks I make have pockets so you can insert a filter,” she said. “It also has a wire and a nose grip to be more fitting.”

They’re not meant to replace N95 masks. Instead, they’re to free up masks for healthcare workers and COVID-19 patients, as well as make those masks last longer with fabric covering them.

For every $20 donation, Ashlyn makes two masks for the donor and four for hospitals. She gets donations from a local Jo-Ann’s employee, including thread and elastic, as well as from others willing to lend a hand.

She can make “about 20 masks a day” – and has plenty of time with California’s shelter-in-place order.

The Bay Area resident isn’t a stranger to fashion philanthropy, working closely with the Samaritan House, a family shelter San Mateo, California. So donated 20 of her designs to their Kid’s Closet and auctioned off a custom gown, raising $4,000 for the shelter. She also helped with a charity show for an anti-bullying campaign at 9 years old.

Her designs have been featured on the runway at New York Fashion Week in 2017 and 2020. She was the youngest Asian American designer to participate at 9 years old for her first Fashion Week, and has appeared on multiple California fashion shows. Recently, she also presented her 2021 collection, with cosmic-inspired designs, at New York’s The Angel Oresanz Foundation Center.

Ashlyn began to design and create her own clothes at 6 years old, inspired by her time at sewing camp. On her website, she advertises custom-made dresses, rings, sneakers, and skateboard decals.

But she’s putting those projects on the backburner to make masks – and her goal is to make 500.

Her Instagram and website, pin2together, feature array of designs for masks, including colors, decals, and sizes, as well as tutorials to make your own. Her masks are mostly made from cotton and are fitted for adults, but Ashlyn will make custom child-sized masks if asked.

Ashlyn’s dream is to go to Parsons School of Design in New York and to do shows in fashion capitols such as Milan.

“People care a lot about what they wear, and there’s also people who are not afraid to experiment,” Angela Wu, Ashlyn’s mother. “Ashlyn really likes that individuality that’s expressed through fashion.”

For now, Ashlyn’s focus is assisting healthcare workers.

“I want everyone to know anybody can help,” she said. “When a time like this comes, even though we have to social distance, we still have to reach out to the community and help each other.”

Ashlyn says the supplies that she currently needs the most is “100% woven cotton.”

So describes her journey in a video featured on her website, pin2together.

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