Business shutting down due to the COVID-19 outbreak has halted Santa Barbara-based women’s accessory designer Caron Miller’s normal wholesale to retail stores across the country. However, the standstill in hat and scarf sales has driven her to start making a product in high demand these days: Masks.
After the first week of selling her new product, the founder of the eponymously named Caron Miller Collection donated all of the money earned, $3,000, to Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center.
In an interview with the News-Press, Ms. Miller remarked that her brand of reusable masks is made with three layers of fabric, reversible, washable and meant to help take pressure off the supply of disposable masks. She admitted that when her business first started getting impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, she wasn’t all that intent on getting into mask manufacturing. Initially, it seemed like a bandwagon that enough fabric workers had jumped onto. But that changed when her sister, a dispatch center director in North Fort Myers, Florida, convinced her to start.
Ms. Miller recalled, “She asked me, ‘Why aren’t you making masks, Caron? You’re a designer.’”
Now that she is in the game of making protective masks, Ms. Miller has made it its own section in the Caron Miller Collection. After all, precautions against the coronavirus are unlikely to change in the near future and wearing masks is expected to be par for the course.
“Now I’ve created a new division of my collection because I believe we will all be wearing masks going forward,” she stated.
For the past three years, Ms. Miller has been volunteering at Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center, which offers therapeutic horseback riding to individuals with chronic physical, cognitive, behavioral, or emotional challenges. These individuals range in age from 4 years old to over 90. Since the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak took full effect, all lessons at the equestrian center have ceased and the annual Barn Dance fundraiser originally scheduled for May 9 had to be cancelled. Because Hearts’ sources of income have evaporated due to the health crisis, Ms. Miller will continue to donate portions from her mask sales to Hearts as its animals still require care.
“We’ve cancelled all the classes, but we still have 18 horses we need to maintain,” she said.
Though a small fraction of the initial $3,000 she donated to Hearts came from her own pocket, a majority of it came from retail stores across the country she sells wholesale to. Familiar with the kind of therapy Hearts provides, those stores decided to help out by buying some of the masks in Ms. Miller’s first batch.
“People know about equine therapy and they were touched and they wanted to be participants,” Ms. Miller said.
Once she possesses the necessary inventory of fabric to make it happen, Ms. Miller will begin doing with masks just what she did with hats and scarves, selling wholesale. Since she’s currently backordered on masks, the demand for it is definitely there. Ms. Miller told the News-Press she is very moved that the stores that know of her products are interested in acquiring her latest offering.
“They know my work and they know my designs and my fabrics, and I’m touched that people are calling me from around the country saying they want Caron Miller masks,” she said.
Those interested in purchasing masks from Ms. Miller can contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The email should specify the quantity of masks desired and the shipping address. 20% of all continued sales will be donated to Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center.