Editor’s note: The following is the first in a series of stories about Kansas City fashion companies putting their own creative spin on the often-utilitarian face mask.
Inspiration comes from everywhere, said Jennifer Lapka, unveiling her company’s launch of fashion masks, Dieynaba Dresses and hijabs/scarfs.
“I love history and looking at historical fashion books about designers,” said Lapka, founder and president of Rightfully Sewn. “The emerald color [of the Dieynaba Dress] was directly influenced by Megan Markle [Duchess of Sussex]. She stepped out in this gorgeous emerald dress when she was pregnant. And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a color we have to honor this autumn.’”
As part of Rightfully Sewn’s business plan, a signature dress is launched every year. For 2020, sustainability, modesty and safety were guiding principles in this collection, Lapka explained.
“The Dieynaba Dress is made out of fabric that’s derived from recycled plastic bottles,” she noted. “I would love to see more designers and fashion brands using recycled fabric because there’s so much material that’s already made. To break it down and make it into new fabric makes a lot of sense to me.”
The name “Dieynaba” was inspired by Dieynaba Diop, who modeled the dresses, masks and hijabs/scarfs. Diop — a fashion model, healthcare worker, entrepreneur, refugee and Muslim woman — shared her thoughts on modesty and religion in an interview with Rightfully Sewn.
Lapka noted that she has received a great amount of support from the Muslim community throughout the years, and Rightfully Sewn’s seamstress training program has intimately intertwined with the community.
Check out Dieynaba Diop modeling the Dieynaba Dress in the photo collection below, then scroll down to keep reading!
Match it with a mask
Safety-conscious fashion lovers can style the Dieynaba Dress with a matching mask, Lapka said. All of this season’s prints are available in the dresses, hijabs/scarfs and masks.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rightfully Sewn pivoted its focus at the end of March to thread the needle in a new direction — face masks.
With an initial goal of making 20,000 masks, Lapka said that Rightfully Sewn was able to produce and distribute over 40,000 masks.
“That was extraordinary because we had hundreds of new donors come through,” she noted. “Due to the fundraising support we had, we were able to double our goal and donate to 35 entities including healthcare systems, other nonprofits and social protests organizations.”
Lapka also expressed gratitude toward Kansas-City-business Elevé Dancewear for lending Rightfully Sewn its computerized cutting board — an expensive piece of equipment that significantly increased mask production capabilities.
“We would not have been able to achieve that high volume without their generosity,” Lapka added.
Click here to read more about Rightfully Sewn’s mask initiative.
Back in the atelier
The heart of Rightfully Sewn — its seamstress training program — restarted Sept. 15, Lapka said with excitement.
Acclaimed artist and fashion designer Patrick Church is leading a virtual discussion at Rightfully Sewn’s 2020 Future Fashion seminar 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 10.
“Patrick and his husband are going to do an hour long Q & A, and I’m still just pinching myself that he said yes,” said Jennifer Lapka. “As an entrepreneur, I think he has a lot to share with the fashion and entrepreneurial community in Kansas City.”
Click here to register. Tickets are $30.
The program features six participants instead of its usual 10, and precautions such as always wearing face masks, checking temperatures and remaining socially distanced are being implemented.
More than 80 percent of participants in Rightfully Sewn’s seamstress training program have been refugees from across the globe, Lapka noted. The company’s goal is to create job opportunities within Kansas City’s fashion industry.
“It’s why I started Rightfully Sewn,” Lapka said. “Before Rightfully Sewn, I worked for the late and great Henry Bloch of H&R Block. He would always say, ‘As soon as you’ve had three meals a day, it’s time to help the next person.’”
“I’m in a position to use my influence, my connections and my capabilities to help others,” she continued. “The fashion industry has historically taken advantage of the environment and taken advantage of the people who do most of the labor. [Rightfully Sewn] is changing that model to where we are thinking about the environment and taking care of our people.”
Click here to watch Jennifer Lapka discuss the mission of Rightfully Sewn.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.