Michelle Lopez, founder and designer of Mask On Mask Off has been in the fashion industry for over 20 years and owns a children’s clothing shop in Milwaukee. When the pandemic hit, the factory which produces the clothes for her store closed down. Seeing the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and realizing she had the supplies and means to make her own masks, Lopez started hand-making masks out of her house in Milwaukee back in March.
“I was like well I have stuff here in my house that I can use to make masks, so I’m going to make some masks because it is going to take my mind off of things and I can help people out,” said Lopez.
She made around 350 to 400 masks with fabrics and things she had around the house. Lopez wanted to help as many people as possible.
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The hobby became a much larger endeavor when a friend asked for a custom mask. Lopez posted a picture of it on Facebook, which sparked so much interest she started Mask On Mask Off at the beginning of April.
“I posted a picture of it on Facebook and people were like ‘Oh my god, I need one,’” said Lopez.
Lopez estimates she has made around 3,000 masks since the end of March with around 350 to 400 masks donated to places such as Columbia St. Mary’s, multiple clinics, the police department, along with Black Lives Matter organizations. However, Lopez admits she eventually lost track of the exact numbers.
“I’m just trying to always give back,” said Lopez. “I’m always donating some portion of the proceeds and am just really trying to make something positive out of so much craziness.”
When the protests started this summer, she wanted to do something more, so she created Black Lives Matter masks, with 100 percent of the sales going to a Black Lives Matter organization. Since doing this, she has donated about $1,500.
Masks are offered in children’s and adult sizes. Lopez carries a variety of masks including masks with ties and masks with adjustable ear loops. All her masks are typical surgical masks that have three layers as recommended by the CDC and a bendable nose wire. Mask On Mask Off has a variety of styles including fun prints and graphics.
“I really just wanted to kind of bring a little fun into this weird world that we’re living in right now, where people can express their personality and can express their style through these masks that we have to wear now,” said Lopez.