Khanh Nguyen

Dallas fashion designer Khanh Nguyen, who is a University of North Texas graduate, shifted her custom fashion company to making protective cloth face masks instead of wedding dresses.

DALLAS — Change is inevitable. For fashion designer Khanh Nguyen, it inspires creativity.

The University of North Texas graduate designed her own wedding dress after her summer internship in Paris, France. She returned to Dallas to create her own company, Nhã Khanh Atelier, specializing in custom fashion.

But now, as weddings everywhere are canceled or postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic, she spends her days making masks and other protective supplies from dress fabric.

Her efforts help front-line workers like nurses, doctors, surgeons, home health caregivers and others.

“I really believe that life can be very uncertain,” Nguyen said. “Sometimes it throws you a curveball and you just have to go with it.”

Despite the novel coronavirus changing the normal day-to-day life of the company, she has managed to keep all her employees working by shifting all dressmaking operations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I’m the third generation that continues in the apparel business,” she said. “It’s somewhat in my blood.”

Nguyen’s boutique clothing store specializes in wedding dresses, formal wear and recently added a luxury children’s clothing line.

Her new project of making protective masks started with leftover fabric and an eagerness to help front-line workers.

Nguyen began making face masks for free, and she and her employees created 1,200 masks to donate. Eventually, Nguyen conceded that producing the masks while paying her employees for their work from home and finding new, suitable fabric was not sustainable.

But word of the donations sparked interest with her clientele and they encouraged her to make masks for them to buy. After a busy few days, Nguyen began selling the masks to the public at almost wholesale prices to keep her business open, provide work for her employees and help those needing masks.

She designed a range of products including children’s masks, adult masks and the fabric pattern instructions for masks. Her crew has made filters from her company’s inventory of non-woven breathable garment bags used for bridal gowns. The cloth masks they make aren’t meant to replace medical N95 or surgical masks, but they do prolong the usage of medical equipment to help during a shortage of medical supplies, she said.

Nguyen originally planned on making only face masks, but several friends and clients who are doctors and surgeons requested for her to make bouffant caps, which surgeons often wear during surgery. Her store has sold more than 3,000 face masks. A hundred bouffant caps sold out in 30 minutes.

“I am extremely grateful to my team for stepping up and lending us their time and talents to work from home during this difficult time,” Nguyen wrote on Facebook recently. “We hope these masks will bring you some comfort and protection as we all are facing and navigating this together.”

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