Extraordinary stitchers can’t ‘mask’ their success with Covid PPE

Masks for extraordinary people...  Finlay Forbes-Gower (left) with charity founder Corinne McManus

Masks for Extraordinary People... Finlay Forbes-Gower (left) with volunteer network founder Corinne McManus - Credit: Mike Brooke

A bunch of extraordinary people who volunteered to make Covid masks for a few bus drivers when the pandemic crisis started have now teamed up with a fashion guru in Shoreditch.  

Every mask sold in Larache means another can be given to the needy by a new volunteer network called Masks For Extraordinary People, whose volunteers turn out the face-wear by the thousands — they’ve stitched up 45,000 in the last 12 months alone.  

It started with a chance remark when textile designer Corinne McManus’s bus-driver friend let slip that he needed PPE.

“I found some of my old fabrics and decided to make up 17 masks to take to the bus garage,” Corinne told the East London Advertiser

“But half-an-hour later the union man at the garage phoned and asked if I could make more. I thought maybe 50 and I’ll knock them up over the weekend.  

“But the bus company ordered 700! The girls I do yoga with were all designers who had been furloughed and had nothing to do. They put a big shout-out on social media for sewers and we got 20 volunteers, then people started bringing fabric and t-shirts to cut up.”  

The bus company, Go-Ahead, then ordered another 13,000 masks.  

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“They paid us so we managed to pay the sewers,” Corinne explained. “The money we make is enough to give away masks for those in need." 

The camera crew on photoshoot at Larache fashion store in Calvert Avenue

The camera crew on photoshoot at Larache fashion store in Calvert Avenue - Credit: Mike Brooke

Her sales organiser, Finlay Forbes-Gower, was in Calvert Avenue and came across Larache, a north African fashion store run by photo-artist Hasan Hajjaj, who is currently staging an exhibition in New York and has been called the "Moroccan Andy Warhol”.  

The store reopened last week and Finlay turned up with a camera crew for a photoshoot to mark a deal the network has done with Hassan for his Moroccan-style fabrics.  

Finlay Forbes-Gower... modelling the charity's latest design in 'must have' Covid masks

Finlay Forbes-Gower... modelling the latest design in 'must have' Covid masks - Credit: Mike Brooke

Finlay said: “I got talking to Daniella who runs the store and she bought a few masks. Now we’ve started making them themed with Hasan’s fabrics.”  

The masksforextraordinarypeople.org network can even now afford to pay its volunteer sewers while still giving free masks to bus drivers, cabbies and homeless shelters, as well as 1,000 to Calais refugee camps. 

Daniella Gallenti in Larache trendy store she runs for fashion guru Hasan Hajjaj in Calvert Avenue

Daniella Gallenti... in Larache trendy store she runs for fashion guru Hasan Hajjaj in Calvert Avenue - Credit: Mike Brooke