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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Apr. 15, 2020 2 years ago

Ocoee fashion designer makes a stitch switch

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Fashion designer Santia McKoy went from sewing dresses to face masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
by: Eric Gutierrez Former Staff Writer

This time of year, Santia McKoy normally would be designing and sewing custom prom dresses.

The Ocoee fashion designer had some custom dresses already in the works, but then, proms were canceled because of COVID-19.

“All the prom dresses (have been) canceled,” McKoy said. “Everything I was supposed to do was canceled. I have a fashion show I was supposed to do on April 11, but everything is canceled because of the pandemic.”

This time of the year is typically one of the busiest for McKoy’s business, S&M Custom Design, so the recent cancellations hurt her business. Despite the financial impacts, McKoy found a different use for her sewing skills. After hearing about the nationwide short supply and high demand for face masks, she decided to start making them herself. Before she knew it, she switched from stitching prom dresses to cotton face masks. 

“I said to myself, ‘Let me start making some masks and then donate them,’” she said. “I made three and then I did a post (on social media). After that, it was over. Everybody shared it on social media. … Now, everybody is asking me for masks.”

Because they are cotton masks, they don’t offer the same level of protection as N95 masks. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended individuals going out in public should wear some type of cloth face covering to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

“You can still wear the medical masks under it,” McKoy said of her cloth masks. “You can wash it, too. As soon as you get home, you can put it in the washer.” 

Since making the switch, McKoy has sewn hundreds of face masks for health care workers. So far, she has sewn more than 250 masks that were sent locally, as well as to other parts of the country. 

Although she has other designers who work for her and her business, she has taken up the task of making the face masks on her own so the other designers can stay home. She does get a little help from her husband, though. 

McKoy added that although she’s been shipping masks to medical workers, she also has masks available to any individual who might need one. She only asks that individuals who want a mask contribute a donation in exchange for one, as the donations help McKoy make more masks. Individuals who want a mask can reach out to McKoy through social media.

“What inspired me (to help) is the whole situation happening,” McKoy said, referring to the pandemic. “I think it’s necessary for me to help, because I’m in a community that’s helping to support me (through my business), so it’s time for me to show, in some way, (support) back to the community.”

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