When Toronto Film School alumnus Michael Estes suddenly found his costume design work thrust into a COVID-19-induced hiatus, the 2018 Fashion Design grad immediately re-stitched his sewing skills towards a good cause.
He, along with at least 15 other Toronto Film School fashionistas, were among some of the first sewers in the city to take up Michael Garron Hospital Foundation’s #MGH1000masks challenge.
“I have the time, so I decided why not,” Estes said of his ready acceptance of the #MGH1000masks campaign, which has challenged sewers all across Toronto to collectively make 1,000 protective masks a week.
“I’m stuck at home, because I have no job right now. The film I was working on has been put on hiatus, so I’ve been keeping busy making fashion-forward masks for my friends, as well as donating a bunch to the hospital.”
Launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the #MGH1000masks challenge is Michael Garron Hospital’s effort to help ease the worldwide shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers.
The homemade masks donated to the campaign will be distributed to all approved visitors who enter Michael Garron Hospital and all discharged patients leaving the hospital, as well as to the broader community – all in an effort to help prevent disease transmission, while also freeing up the hospital’s stock of certified masks for the exclusive use of frontline healthcare workers.
The Toronto Film School fashion community’s response to the #MGH1000masks challenge was spearheaded by Laurie Hall, who teaches Public Relations for the Marketing for Fashion & Entertainment program.
She first heard of the fashion community’s efforts to help out during the worldwide pandemic from Heather Ward – an Ottawa-based friend and former colleague who put the call-out to her fashion contacts after hearing about New York City designers efforts to make face masks.
“After reading Heather’s email, I approached Paula Shneer and Pheinixx, who put me in touch with Keith Richardson, who invited his fashion students and graduates to DM me on Instagram,” Hall said, noting that she was pleasantly surprised by the “great” response.
In addition to current TFS Fashion students Humaima Baloch and Norhan Edris, Hall also successfully enlisted the help of Estes and his fellow recent grads Marc-Justin Harder, Roseann Rosete, Marwa Hayal Aziz, Chloe Robidoux, Evian Woods, Sydney Victor, and Nadeem Harakati, to name a few.
Baloch, who’s currently in her third term at Toronto Film School, made nearly 60 masks for the #MGH1000masks challenge in just her first couple of days
“When I saw Keith Richardson’s post on Instagram about the challenge, I thought I’d give it a try because there’s so many people who need masks right now,” she said, noting that she’s had to get a bit creative, given that so many stores are currently closed and materials are hard to come by.
“I feel like this is the least I can do for my community. Being a mom of two, it’s not really easy, but I’m trying to do the best that I can. This is the time to give back, you know?”
That sentiment was echoed by Estes: “For me, just to spend a couple of days making masks to help a few hundred people is the least I could do, especially because I’m not doing anything else,” he said.
“And it’s also a skill that not everyone has, so I’m happy to contribute. We’ve all just got to help one another.”
Anyone wishing to join Estes and Baloch and their fellow TFS fashionistas in taking up the #MGH1000masks challenge are encouraged to download step-by-step mask making directions here or you can watch a video tutorial produced by Toronto Film School’s own Christopher Paunil here.
“I’m really proud of everyone for stepping up and helping out,” Hall said of the TFS community’s response to the #MGH1000masks challenge. “Hopefully together we can help flatten the curve.”
For more information about the campaign or how you can contribute, go to www.mghf.ca/mgh1000masks