What California’s Actors, Entrepreneurs and Creatives Are Doing to Flatten the Coronavirus Curve

The much-needed aid comes in the form of meals, masks and drive-through testing facilities



California companies and creative minds across the state are rushing to help protect those on the front lines combating coronavirus. Every day more offers of support and aid to the vulnerable and in need are coming in as the pandemic continues to spread. An outpouring of life-saving personal protective medical equipment made by seamstresses from Los Angeles to Marin is also underway. These are the thinkers, dreamers and makers leading the charge.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Laurene Powell Jobs, Apple and the Ford Foundation just launched America’s Food Fund as a hunger-fighting Go Fund Me page, to which Twitter founder Jack Dorsey pledged $100,000 of the $1 billion (in personal Square equity) he’s setting aside for coronavirus relief. Dorsey is additionally launching a limited liability company, Start Small, to divide the balance of his funds among other to-be-determined beneficiaries. Also recognizing the growing need for hunger relief in communities impacted by coronavirus, Oprah Winfrey is pledging $10 million to feed families during the crisis, including $1 million earmarked for America’s Food Fund.


“The idea that we’re all in this together and the importance of community in times of hardship and healing are what’s going to get us through this,” says John Rossell, head of creative and marketing at AG Jeans. The company, headquartered southeast of downtown L.A., is adopting a local approach with its aid efforts. While keeping all employees on its payrolls, AG is additionally donating $1 million to the rapidly growing Covid-19 LA County Response Fund and supporting community clinics such as AltaMed plus countywide hospitals striving to increase capacity and ramp up virus testing. Actor Sean Penn’s nonprofit, Community Organized Relief Effort is also addressing wide-ranging testing gaps. CORE volunteers are working with L.A. officials to staff multiple drive-through testing facilities around the city for high-risk individuals with symptoms plus a first responder testing center in Malibu.

Tom Ford is donating 10 percent of online sales to A Common Thread a fundraising initiative for fashion designers impacted by the pandemic (plus a free virtual styling appointment). Independent labels whose ateliers are shuttered by shelter-in-place mandates are especially hard hit, even as their creative directors devote time and deadstock to mask-making.


Amiri streetwear designer Mike Amiri is stepping up mask production and donation at his downtown L.A. headquarters. He’s even devised a genius trick for folding the brand’s trademark bandanas into on-the-fly masks now that L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is requiring all residents to use face coverings while visiting essential businesses. Hawthorne-based For Days is selling machine-washable double-layer organic cotton masks in five-packs (five additional masks are donated to nurses, doctors and firefighters) manufactured at its closed-loop zero-waste facility. Co-founder and CEO Kristy Caylor says she’s ramping up to produce 10,000 per day. “It’s unusual being behind a mask at all times,” she says, “but we’re making it work!”

Marin’s Rough Linen is producing masks for Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California medical staff made from the home goods brand’s linen sheeting offcuts following rigorous specs provided by the HMO’s safety specialist. “We always try to minimize waste,” says Rough Linen founder Tricia Rose. “This is the best possible way for us to give back to the community when it needs us most. We all owe health workers more than we can ever repay.” Venice Beach’s Onzie is upcycling yoga fabric to create face coverings for South L.A.’s Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital and UCLA nurses and also selling them online with proceeds directed to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.


Rails founder and creative director Jeff Abrams will soon include personal protective cotton masks in all orders and donate 10,000 N95 masks to hospitals in San Francisco, L.A. and across the country. The L.A.-based brand is additionally donating a percentage of online sales to No Kid Hungry, feeding children during school closures. Sanctuary co-founders Ken and Deb Polanco are marshalling resources to produce millions of masks for medical workers while also creating Essential Lifestyle masks in five-packs for everyone else. L.A.-based hospital scrubs disruptor Figs has already donated 12,000 fresh sets to hospitals in need while putting hundreds of thousands of surgical gowns into production and donating $100,000 to the Frontline Responders Fund.

Neiman Marcus is partnering with JoAnn fabric and craft stores to make more much-needed healthcare gear, including daily scrubs and the gowns frontline medical workers rely on to keep themselves virus-free. Neiman’s L.A. alteration facility, along with its facilities in other various states, is maintaining stringent sanitation guidelines from the CDC for the life-saving gear while also producing it as quickly as possible. Likewise, Nordstrom is pairing with Kaas Tailored manufacturing facilities here and in a host of other states to create over 100,000 masks, even as Kaas itself is mounting a 100 million mask challenge.


Other creatives are looking homeward, jump-starting initiatives to aid families and children in need. Meals on Wheels is the beneficiary of a portion of proceeds from Culver City’s Platform Drive-Through, a contactless all-in-one stop for takeout from indie shops and restaurants, including Van Leeuwen ice cream and Roberta’s pizza, houseplants from Rolling Greens and records at Maison Kitsuné.

Parisian Jewelry designer Valerie Messika which opened a store at Westfield Century City at the end of last year is stepping up her long-term support for After-School All-Stars, the L.A.-based nonprofit founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger providing free academic, wellness, mentoring and art programs for students in partnership with local schools. Messika is donating 20 percent of April sales to the charity’s expanding online programs for homebound kids whose schools are shuttered for the remainder of the academic year.


Through sales of her Skims shapewear line, Kim Kardashian West is committing $1 million to L.A.-based Baby2Baby, which has already provided families in need with 4 million basic essentials from diapers to cribs during the Covid-19 outbreak. The entrepreneur and social justice advocate took to Twitter with a very personal explanation for her efforts. “As a mother, helping families in need during this time is especially important to me.”


Feature image: Masks by ONZIE.


April 8, 2020



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