Inside this scrappy Silver Lake mask emporium

Laura Howe works with telephone themed fabric that will be used to make masks. At right is her dog, Baby, an Italian mastiff.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Laura S. Howe’s Silver Lake business was no different than any other nonessential business in Los Angeles — it was closed.

That’s when Howe came up with the idea of using the scraps she had saved from all the custom-made dresses over the years at her Matrushka Construction boutique.

The result: masks. And a lot of them.

After displaying the masks on Instagram a few weeks ago, Matrushka sold 700 in the first two days. Since then, the business has now sold more than 8,000.

Customer Joelle Corey, 32, of Echo Park points to the mask she wants after being shown a variety by Christine Flick.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Laura Howe irons the creases out of scraps from fabric, originally used to make dresses, that is now being used to make masks at her store in Silver Lake.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)


Laura Howe's masks are made from leftover and donated fabric. The tennis shoe fabric was donated by Alexander Henry Fabrics in Burbank.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Working off-site

Because of the high demand, she has been able to provide jobs for over 10 people, paying them $3 for each mask they make. She provides them with a kit, with the material already pre-cut to form, so each person can make 25 to 75 masks a day.

Kacey Barnes sews masks at her home in Echo Park. Barnes, who lost her job doing set tailoring and costume building for the film and television industry, said she averages making 50 masks a day, seven days a week.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
 Antje Block, who lost her job as a seamstress at Ragmop Vintage clothing store because of the coronavirus, averages making 20 to 25 masks a day.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Rhea Aldridge, an out of work digital technician on photo shoots, sews masks at her home in East Hollywood. In foreground helping out with ironing the masks is her boyfriend, Jason Costello, a freelance graphic designer
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)


Laura Howe receives another batch of finished masks at her store
Laura Howe receives another batch of finished masks at her store. So far, over 8,000 masks have been made.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Christine Flick sprays disinfectant on masks before individually bagging them and preparing for shipment
Christine Flick sprays disinfectant on masks before individually bagging them and preparing for shipment.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Physical barriers

Christine Flick uses the mail slot to exchange money for a mask with a walk-up customer at the front door to Matrushka Construction in Silver Lake.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Howe said she has run out of scraps, so now it’s a combination of buying fabric and receiving donated fabric from a company called Alexander Henry in Burbank.

In addition to selling the masks for $13 apiece, they have donated over 400 masks to various places, including L.A. City park rangers, a clinic in Bell Gardens and a correctional facility.

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