Seattle fashion designer’s pivot to mask-makaing leads to national exposure

Erika Dalya Massaquoi, founder of the Oula Company, has sold more than 3,000 masks since March. #k5evening

SEATTLE — Like a lot of people, fashion designer Erika Dalya Massaquoi had big plans for the spring and summer. For Massaquoi, it meant her first trunk show in Miami and a speaking gig at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.  

But COVID-19 forced the cancellation of everything; and Erika, who founded The Oula Company five years ago faced a choice. Wallow in the loss or keep moving.  Fortunately, she decided to focus her energy on making masks. 

And it wasn’t long before they caught the attention of some national publications. The Oula Company’s masks ended up on the digital pages of Maxim, GQ, and USA Today. 

The bold colorful prints that make up the masks are a reflection of what the Oula Company has been doing since its founding 5 years ago.  “Everything is handcrafted and handmade. By the time you receive it, three people at most have touched it. That makes it special. It’s the closest thing to couture your going to get,” said Massaquoi. 

Most of the Oula clothes are made with a material called Ankara. “It’s heavy cotton printed with wax over it and more and more people are experimenting with it,” explained Massaquoi.

Within 24 hours of her masks hitting the website, Massaquoi says she sold out! And after doing some digging, discovered it was indeed because of the national publicity.

“We have a cool pocket, so if you have an N-95 mask, you can just slip it in. It’s totally handmade, even the straps. The seamstress makes the straps. They are super colorful and comfy.” 

Since March, she’s personally sold and shipped more than 3,000 masks. 

But most importantly, she’s hoping that her service provides some joy. Each box of masks shipped comes with a card and the Oula story of resilience and determination. Massaquoi said, “because of the color and the story, it provides a bright spot and it’s a box of happiness.”

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