By Nahla El Gendy
Alumni are working to keep people safe, healthy and looking good
“I was thinking of ways to help out my community with the coronavirus pandemic. When I saw famous global brands producing face masks for hospitals, I immediately started knitting masks with my sewing machine and distributing them to hospitals in need,” said Lamiaa Rady ’18, a visual arts graduate and founder of Rigash brand for contemporary clothes.
Rady is one of several alumni fashion designers who turned to the production of face masks to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Farah El Ashiry ’14, designer and owner of Fufa clothing brand who holds a bachelor’s in integrated marketing communication from AUC and a fashion design diploma from the Italian Fashion Academy, designed patterned face masks from left-over materials — all 100% cotton — sewn by skilled elderly housewives who work from the comfort of their homes and get compensated financially. The women are from underprivileged areas in Cairo, including Al Fustat, Boulaq and Shubra. “That way, we are designing face masks to protect people during this pandemic and, at the same, helping these women and their families. Proceeds from the masks also provided more than 100 meals for people in need during Ramadan,” said El Ashiry. “We’ve always wanted to benefit the community with sustainable materials, and we were able to achieve this with our face masks.”
Even though the masks are not medical, El Ashiry noted that they are constantly working to improve the quality of the masks based on national and international guidelines. The masks are now designed as shields or covers with inner pockets to insert a medical mask.
As with any product, the demand dictates the volume of production. “I started off making cotton masks only for hospitals with coronavirus cases, but when I was approached by university hospitals, maternity wards, transplant units and clinics, I widened the circle. I make around 15 masks a day on my own and will continue to do so until the demand is completely fulfilled,” said Rady, who starting sewing at the age of 13 when she taught herself draping, was a member of The Fashion Club at AUC and styled fashion photoshoots for Vitrina, the University’s first fashion magazine. “I try to make the masks as comfortable as possible by using 100% cotton, which also makes them reusable. For protection, there is a nose piece that people can adjust and a pocket for changing filters. This is just a small contribution from my side.”
Farida Temraz ’12, ’18, CEO, designer-in-chief and founder of Temraza international fashion brand, was the first Egyptian designer to dress stars for the Oscars and to be recognized at fashion weeks in New York, London and Paris. She was also the first AUC student to focus on fashion communications. Among her many firsts as a fashion designer, she started a wholesale production of breathable cloth face masks, dedicating all proceeds to Egypt’s Tahya Misr Fund to support national hospitals with ventilators and provide medical assistance as needed to fight the pandemic.
“I felt obliged to use Temraza’s resources to give back to our country, our nation and our community,” said Temraz. “I researched a lot and found out that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can protect yourself using a piece of cloth on your nose that is produced based on international standards.”
Temraz and her team tested the mask and conducted pilot studies to make sure it complies with global standards. The mask is made of two protective layers: a thin, cotton layer for those with sensitive skin and an outer, protective layer to guard against the expulsion of any infectious particles. The mask is also non-absorbent, preventing water from going through and, therefore, ensuring safety. To make them more personalized, people could write their names or initials on the face masks. “Our aim is to produce heavy-duty masks that will last all day, and are washable and personable,” said Temraz. “It’s a protective, not a medial, mask, which is what most people need.”
With the slogan “Protect Yourself, and Wear Your Mask,” Temraza brand has produced a batch of masks and distributed them to members of Egypt’s police force “who expose themselves on a daily basis to protect our country and community.” She received an award from the police force in recognition of her efforts. The rest of the face masks supply is being sold to “raise funds in the fight against COVID-19,” as the brand officially announced.
“We need to limit people’s use of medical masks, since they are mainly targeted to protect doctors, nurses and other people working in hospitals — and, of course, we should limit environmental pollution due to plastic waste,” noted Temraz, whose initiative has been supported by celebrities posting photos of themselves wearing Temraza masks and calling on people to do the same. These include actors Amina Khalil ’09, Asser Yassin ’04 and Inji El Mokkaddem ’97, and Nesma Mahgoub ’13, professional singer and adjunct professor of voice at AUC.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has helped in raising awareness by urging people to wear face masks,” said Temraz. “This year is about surviving, about taking care of ourselves and each other, and about giving back to our community and beloved country in any way we can.”