When Greensboro company Absonutrix needed help with COVID-19 personal protective equipment, they knew just who to call: a CAES fashion merchandising faculty member.

The local health, weight loss, sports and beauty supplement-supplier was running low on face masks for their workers. The company’s president and CEO, a friend of Geetika Jaiswal, Ph.D., knew that she taught sewing in her courses and reached out to see if Jaiswal could offer some lessons on how to sew the masks.

Geetika Jaiswal, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Fashion Merchandising and Design, sews a mask for a local business owner and his staff. She and a team of FMD faculty, alumni and students made 104 masks for Absonutrix, a Greensboro company.

Instead of training just one person, Jaiswal thought, why not involve fashion merchandising faculty, students and alumni? And with more people to sew, why not shoot for 100 masks?

“They’re not hard to make,” Jaiswal said. “Anyone can do it, and it only takes about 45 minutes per mask. I thought that the students could get the experience, and we could help a local business.”

Fellow fashion merchandising and design faculty members Beth Newcomb-Hopfer, Ph.D., and Devona Dixon, Ph.D., agreed to participate. Several alumni and 15 students also agreed to sew masks.

Department Chairperson Valerie Giddings, Ph.D., agreed to officially back the project, providing fabric and postage.

“Times are tough and it’s the end of the semester,” Jaiswal said. “Not everyone can afford to go buy the right fabric for masks. Having the right fabric was really great – research shows that cotton is better than the others. I sent around a handout for how to make the masks, and everyone went to work. Some of the students are putting in extra touches, like pouches for filters.”

Using the resources she had on hand, Jaiswal cut up one of her own clean cotton sheets to be turned into face masks.

Jaiswal sent a shipment of 104 masks to Absonutrix at the end of the semester, and PPEs never looked so fashionable.

“All of our employees were very thankful for the masks, which were much needed,” said Absonutrix CEO Himanshu Nautiyal. “We make health supplements, which were of the essence to combat this crisis situation, and I thank Dr. Jaiswal for coordinating this drive, and her team of volunteers, for supplying the homemade masks to safeguard the health of our employees.”

Jaiswal said that the team may not be finished.

“Another friend who works for the fire department told me that the Durham Fire Department was in need,” Jaiswal said. “I haven’t committed yet, but we just might!”