Fighting COVID-19 with Face Masks and Fashion
May 13, 2020
Stella Hankins is the founder and owner of Bella Bonita Designs, a Wichita-based fashion label with a line of silk scrunchies, twillies and scarves. Her ultimate goal has always been to help people, specifically by hiring women in recovery like herself. When she realized the inevitable impact of COVID-19, Stella did just that and pivoted her business to sew face masks, while empowering the community to do the same.
Stella partnered with makerspace GoCreate to form Project Protect ICT, a Facebook group encouraging locals to sew and donate face masks. It proved to be a much-needed way to support the community during an uncertain time, reaching 1,400 locals and leading to the production of more than 10,000 masks in just a few weeks. Progress happened quickly – In The Bag Cleaners offered its dry cleaning locations as donation sites, sanitizing each mask before being sent to local hospitals and organizations in need. Not long after, Midwest Sewing loaned Stella 12 sewing machines to increase production, allowing her to hire six full-time women in recovery and pay them a living wage. After seeing her hard work pay off, they want to start their own businesses, too.
Swipe to view more photos. Hang tags made by local artist Maggie Gilmore, photos by local photographer Kacy Meinecke.
Stella says she could have gone anywhere to pursue her dream, but the city’s history of innovation and support of small business led her to work in Wichita. Her choice paid off – Koch Industries offered Stella a six-month scholarship at GoCreate to start her business and grow it to where it is today. She’s created dozens of original, edgy designs (some for a more mature audience) and hopes to start a sustainability initiative using repurposed fabric. For now, though, you can find her designs on a new line of Bella Bonita face masks, adding to her selection of already-successful accessories. Learn more about Bella Bonita or purchase one of Stella’s #RelentlesslyOriginal designs at www.bellabonitadesigns.com.