As the number of COVID-19 cases in the region rises, so does the number of Houstonians coming together to help the community. Nghi Nguyen is doing his part by creating masks to raise funds for the Houston Food Bank.
Nguyen, a trans man who owns an online clothing shop called NEEWIN, is donating the profits from his fashionable masks to support families who have been financially impacted by the pandemic.
“I’ve always wanted to help people,” Nguyen says, “and I never expect the people I help to give back to me. I don’t care about that. If I see people struggling, I’ll try my best to help.”
His project follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new guidelines. According to the CDC site, face masks are important because even individuals who do not show COVID-19 symptoms can spread the disease in public settings such as grocery stores and pharmacies where social-distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Nguyen creates the face masks in his home and sells them on his NEEWIN website. The masks are made of Louis Vuitton-inspired fabric and come in black, red, and white.
Although his masks are currently sold out, Nguyen plans to restock and release new masks in solid colors for online purchase. Interested parties can pre-order the masks in sets or packs. Those who want to stay informed about his masks’ availability can sign up for updates on his website.
While sewing so many masks can be arduous, Nguyen says he loves the creative process. And he works to stop the spread of COVID-19 by frequently washing his hands and disinfecting his workstation.
After preparing his workspace, he cuts the fashion (or outer) fabric, as well as the lining fabric, based on his custom mask patterns. Before packaging and shipping the product, he sews the two fabrics together with an elastic string and leaves a small hole in the mask in case customers want to insert a filter.
Nguyen’s attention to detail and his work ethic comes from years of practice and his family’s background in the fashion industry. Originally from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Nguyen grew up surrounded by industrial sewing machines and cut fabric. His parents and aunt ran their business and filled orders for other companies at home. They sewed pieces in large quantities and then ironed, packaged, and shipped the products. His family’s heavy involvement fueled Nguyen’s passion for the design and manufacturing process.
Nguyen veered away from his family business and enrolled in architecture school after graduating high school, but he eventually returned to his true passion. “Sometimes, I think fashion chose me before I chose fashion,” he says.
Nguyen went to Ho Chi Minh City College of Culture & Arts and earned an associate degree in fashion design in 2015. One year later, he moved to the United States to continue his education at Houston Community College (HCC).
Now a full-time HCC undergraduate student studying fashion design, Nguyen also sells modern women’s wear on his website.
He hopes that people will also support healthcare professionals in any way they can. “Right now, in the medical field, healthcare professionals lack a lot of personal protective equipment,” Nguyen says. “So, if you know any healthcare workers and have resources to give, please reach out to them and donate what you can.”