On a sunny day early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Alison Handel and her teenage daughters watched cancer patients enter a chemotherapy infusion center. They entered alone due to policies necessary to try to keep the patients and their loved ones safe and, seeing this, the Handels said to each other, “We need to do something.” And so, the brainstorming that led to House of Luxury Masks began.
Through Alison’s position as a member of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Arizona Chapter Board of Trustees, the Handels had long been supporters of LLS’ mission to invest in life-saving new treatments and provide support to patients and their families. A long-time resident of DC Ranch, Alison has personally raised thousands of dollars over a decade of involvement with LLS and daughters Ava (14) and Chloe (12) are often at her side, helping in whatever way that they can.
In the summer of 2020 that help has emerged through an innovative initiative the Handels have named House of Luxury Masks — a project born from the Handels’ interest in fundraising, fashion and a new sustainability concept known as “upcycling.”
“We were already committed to raising funds for LLS just as wearing masks was becoming a necessity — and we thought, ‘Why not mask up in style?’”
The concept was to create masks from discarded dust covers for shoes and clothing, boxes, gift wrap ribbons, and any material that would reflect luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana. They researched the best pattern for the masks themselves, produced a few initial prototypes and then worked on a business plan to gather donations for LLS in return for masks that reflected the styles of fashion’s top brands. By using materials that would have eventually found their way to a landfill, they were also able to employ the concept of upcycling, or taking something that would be thrown out and elevating it into a practical yet stylish new use.
Ava, a freshman at Notre Dame Preparatory, created a website to display the different masks available. Chloe, a seventh grader at St. John XXIII, devised the packaging concepts and provided creative direction, while the girls’ cousin, Liv, a junior at Indiana University studying marketing and business management, devised a marketing and social media strategy. And Alison got to work sourcing from friends and neighbors the materials needed to produce the masks.
Not long after launching the website in late June and starting the marketing and social media campaign, they received a $1,000 donation for a personalized mask and haven’t slowed down since, with orders coming in from across the United States and Canada. In mid-August, they passed the $8,000 mark for funds raised, well on their way to reaching their initial $10,000 goal by November. They’ve also added dog bandanas and scrunchies to their product mix based on requests from donors.
“The whole experience has been remarkable, and the support of the community has truly been a blessing,” Alison says. They’ve begun receiving donations of materials from complete strangers who have heard about their efforts and not only want to donate money to receive a mask, but also make sure House of Luxury Masks can continue to fill more orders.
Aside from raising thousands of dollars to help cancer patients, experiencing the creation of a new “business,” and logging hundreds of service hours, there has also been an unanticipated additional benefit for Ava and Chloe.
“We learned how to use the steam setting on our iron,” Ava says with a wide smile.
For more information, or to place an order, visit houseofluxurymasks.weebly.com. Be sure to also check out their Instagram and Facebook @houseofluxurymasks.