SEATTLE — As face masks become more ubiquitous, a Seattle designer thinks they can double as fashion statements.
Gustave Apiti owns and operates Gustavo Apiti Couture, specializing in vibrantly-colored custom gowns and suits. His aesthetic is heavily inspired by his early life growing up in the Congo.
Until the pandemic hit, the Apiti brand was blowing up.
"This outbreak was a big shock because nobody was expecting to see this situation,” he said.
Since he can't do in-person fittings, all of his existing orders are on hold. But Apiti found a different way to create couture by hand-sewing fashion-forward face masks.
"By nature, I like stuff to be more flashy,” he said. “There should be some people out there who look flashy."
The designs include three layers and follow CDC guidelines, but also make a bold statement. Apiti calls them "Level Up" masks, inspired by a Ciara song and Instagram post.
“I decided to use a high quality fabric and nice trimming, nice details,” he said.
The unisex masks come in a variety of designs and sizes, are washable, and range in price from $40 - $55.
Apiti knows they won’t appeal to everyone.
"It's more for public figures, anyone who wants to look fancy,” he said. "Or those who love fashion."
But his made-to-order designer masks are also helping provide more traditional ones for those who need them most. He’s already purchased and donated 750 surgical masks to local hospitals.
"I need to support them to show that we are together with them," he said. "Whatever money I make out of these masks, I'm going to get more masks and give to the community."
Apiti’s childhood in the Congo gives him a unique perspective on the pandemic, and unity.
"I've learned a lot of things through my life. As you know in Congo we used to have Ebola and so many things,” he said. "This is the world God has given to us, we have to come together, we have to support one another, so we can make this community even stronger."
Apiti’s masks can be ordered online and typically arrive within 5 days.