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As I write this, Virginia’s governor has issued an executive order that requires everyone over age ten to wear a mask whenever they are anywhere inside. While there are exceptions such as eating and exercising, masks have become a way of life. We all need them, and North End Bag Co. makes them.

Gray and Red Reusable Fabric Facemasks


While masks were initially part of a public health plan to slow the spread of COVID-19, sheltering-in-place signaled the beginning of our new normal. It also sparked innovation. Some of us planted gardens and learned how to bake sourdough. When people panicked and created a hand sanitizer shortage, we saw distilleries shifting their operations so they could make small batch alcohol-based sanitizer. (Shout out to our ViBe Creative District friends, Chesapeake Bay Distillery!)  

Face coverings were another item that people scrambled to buy as disposable masks ran out. At that time, North End Bag Co. joined the ranks of companies that pivoted from making fashion with fabric to making masks. When our governor issued mandatory stay-home orders that closed our shop to the public, we remained optimistic and looked for how we could continue to contribute meaningful products to our community.

Sewing and putting adjustable pleats into masks

We ordered new fabric and materials (a lightweight and breathable cotton poplin and extremely soft bias tape). We spoke with professionals in the medical field to get insight into how to make our masks the most comfortable they could be. We added a metal filament to make them form-fitting, yet universally wearable. Our team of artisans hunkered down in our shop and crafted the most essential product we’ve made yet.


Today, we all wear masks. As someone who doesn’t work in healthcare, this was the first time I had to wear a mask other than Halloween. After the initial shock wore off of feeling like a doctor or nurse in one, I realized I felt scared. I wanted people to stay away from me and I dodged people. There was a disconnect between my core beliefs about connecting with people and my visceral experience.

Sewing tape on masks

Wearing a North End Bag Co. reusable mask was an entirely different experience. Putting something familiar on made me less apprehensive and feel more normal. I don’t know whether it was the idea of it matching my aesthetic, or the organic nature of the fabric, but I relaxed.

Wearing masks and withdrawing from physical contact from humans is not natural. We are social beings and our entire wellbeing as a society thrives on connection. The psychological benefit of wearing North End Bag Co.’s mask gave me a new sense of freedom.


Like any essential item, we have the choice as consumers of whether we want to buy disposable masks, or reusable and sustainable ones. We can still exercise our preference for conscious consumerism and support local businesses. We can still support ethical fashion and businesses aligned with our beliefs. We can still show our identities. Especially behind a mask.

Staff in masks outside of shop

North End Bag Co.’s masks fit all shapes and sizes. We’re currently making them in two colors, charcoal and terracotta, which are great for Father’s Day gifts. Come by our shop to check them out, or order some online for yourself and your loved ones. 

We’ve been loving your visits to our shop since we’ve been able to reopen to the public. How have you brought innovation into your life in the past ten weeks? Stop by for a chat. Let’s navigate our new normal together. 

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  • Lisa Nagle: June 13, 2020

    I love my mask. Any chance you are up for making masks for children/teens?

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