Sewing and Protecting

Lesley Tamaev on efforts to provide face masks for the community

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During COVID-19, face coverings, used as a safety measure, have become what can now be considered a prevalent and necessary accessory.

Face masks are more common and even required in some areas. Early to respond to the demand was LESLEY TAMAEV, owner and designer of local clothing brand Rove and Roam.

The fashion designer decided to put her skills to use and start making masks for healthcare workers near and far.

“As the seriousness of the pandemic started to unroll, the small boutiques that I work with began postponing and canceling their spring wholesale orders,” Tamaev says. “I saw that other makers were making cloth masks.”

The designer started doing research and JESSIE WILLIAMS, owner of downtown’s Edge of Urge, sent Tamaev a video from a hospital in a hot zone that was accepting handmade cloth masks.

“After seeing the video, I made a few prototypes and jumped on production,” she says.

Wanting to help after hearing the many stories of nurses working with coronavirus patients without proper PPE, the designer decided to post the masks on her website as free for healthcare workers.

“I was overwhelmed by the response,” Tamaev says. “People were ordering 10-20 at a time. I spent 3 weeks making and fulfilling orders from nurses and other healthcare workers all over the country.”

Tamaev has made about 400 masks and almost exhausted her supply of fabric and elastic—and herself, she says.

Luckily, she has a partner in hand, her husband Sergey. He is the other half of Rove and Roam.

“Sergey helps out with cutting and sewing and comes to the studio when he can,” she says. “He has become quite adept at mask making.” Sergey Tamaev is an essential worker at the Port of Wilmington and knows first-hand about the need for masks.

The designer’s masks are made of pre-washed, 100% woven cotton.

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“It is what is recommended by the CDC as they need to be washed at a high heat to properly sanitize,” Tamaev says.

After giving them away for free, Tamaev had to make the hard decision of selling the masks.

Now, for every mask purchased, one is donated to healthcare workers and essential employees.

“I am doing a buy one, donate one program and am now working with the local chapter of Open Source COVID-19,” she says. “They have organized an army of sewers and distribute them to those in need locally.”

So far, the response for masks has been positive. “Feedback has been wonderful,” she says. “Wearing a face mask is just part of our new normal and many people have reached out to say thank you.”

Speaking of the new normal how is her business adjusting?

“With clothing sales down by 95% I have had to shift my production capabilities to mostly mask-making,” Tamaev says. “It’s not what I was expecting for our Spring/Summer season, but I’m hanging in there using the skills I have to make a product that people need.”

Tamaev says she feels lucky to have a business that can continue to function, even though sales are down especially for this time of year.

“We are ticking along,” she says. “It’s difficult to see so many of our favorite small businesses shuttered and hope that people realize how important it is to shop, eat and drink local to keep our vibrant downtown going.”

To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to

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Categories: Culture