“I can’t do anything else, so I’m just gonna sit back down and sew again.”
That was Margaretta Hershey’s quarantine mantra, one she cycled through only at least 1,000 times—and has the bill of sales to prove it.
While 2020 has been the year of the at-home mask-maker, it’s not just any mask that finds itself nestled amongst the luxe of the luxe—we’re talking Dior, Gucci, Balenciaga, Dolce.
But when your masks catch the eye of an old friend, the inimitable Beth Buccini of Bryn Mawr’s coveted boutique Kirna Zabete, that’s what happens.
“My vision was just, ‘Huh. They’re saying we should wear masks, and that cloth is fine,” says Hershey, who lives in Centerville. “So I set my sewing machine up in front of the TV in March, drastically modified a design I saw online, and that was how it started.”
Hershey, a lover of the absurd, had the conviction that if the world was going to be masked, it might as well be an interesting moment in fashion.
So she works in bold color, contrasting designs, vintage fabrics, whimsical fancy, and she is not too good for neon pom-poms.
“Let’s just have fun with it,” she says. “I have a ton that are pretty straight forward, and they sell beautifully,” she says. “But it’s the ones where I’m a little nervous about that seem to really resonate. If we have to wear masks as a civic duty, at least we can be safe and chic.”
It’s not like Hershey went into this endeavor blind: Her artistic life has seen many iterations.
A self-taught seamstress who swore by her grandmother’s mint green Singer, she soon evolved into a prodigious needle pointer. Except she found her talent for the medium left her in interesting company at the needle-point store where she worked in Greenville.
“I looked around one day and was like, ‘Why am I an 18-year-old surrounded by grandmas?”
Her next stop was glitz and glam—and other peoples’ couches—in Manhattan. She worked a dead-end job in sales at a publisher while painting away in a tiny studio apartment. She went back to needle pointing, too, making cuffs for her girlfriends.
Again, cue Buccini and Kirna Zabete—this time, the flagship New York store.
“Beth asked me to make the cuffs for the store,” Hershey says. They began to sell like wild, and Hershey got some buzz: she ended up in Nylon, on Daily Candy, and her accessories made it into an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue.
“That traction gave me the courage to quit my job and start freelance designing at Old Navy,” she says.
There she designed for the baby, handbags and accessories, and supply (all the fun little things that tempt shoppers while they’re waiting to check out) lines.
“Once I had to design an Old Navy frisbee,” she says, laughing. “I was like, um. You want me to … draw a circle?”
She transitioned to Gap shortly thereafter, becoming the self-anointed Pocket Princess when she landed in women’s denim, all the while keeping up her accessories business.
“Except my fingers started bleeding, I didn’t have enough help and I was burned out on New York,” she says. “So I folded the accessories line.”
Once again ensconced in First State suburbia—this time with a new husband and growing family—Hershey was mostly painting as she watched her kids grow. Enter 2020.
“When I first started, it was clear everyone on the planet had the same idea because I couldn’t get fabric from anywhere,” Hershey says. “I finally hard to order from Liberty of London, and it was coming faster to me from the U.K. then it was my local JoAnn.”
Luckily, her mother dropped by, arms laden with vintage fabrics that Hershey had purchased as a teenager and left in the family home in Chadds Ford.
“It’s the gift that keeps on giving, as I recently found some vintage French cotton,” Hershey says.
One of her first customers was Buccini, who told her it was the best mask she’d seen so far, and why don’t you make a few for the store. A few quickly became 1,000-plus, and Kirna Zabete has been shipping them to customers globally.
Hershey has worked her fingers off—literally.
“I cut off the tip of my finger in September,” she says. “I’d like to give credit to Scott Edmundson at Wilmington Hospital for reattaching it so well you’d never know.”
Unfortunately, with Delaware’s COVID numbers steadily rising, Hershey figures she’ll be busy for a while.
“It’s not a great reason to be busy,” she says. “But here we are.”
As Hershey’s IG points out, ‘Like good undies, makes don’t last forever, so refresh your mask wardrobe regularly.’ Her masks, $35, are available at kirnazabete.com.