How four face masks are providing support—and jobs—to out-of-work theater artists...
New York City has earned its reputation as the city that never sleeps—from its clubs downtown to the twinkling lights of Broadway, it’s a place that’s full of life. But with COVID-19 lockdown measures in place, the city’s vibrant hum is on pause. In the midst of the quiet, the future of New York City’s vital and beloved Broadway community is uncertain, as theaters are slated to remain closed until at least June 2021, leaving thousands of jobs up in the air.
In response to the shutdown, a designer, a wardrobe specialist, and the Princess Grace Foundation-USA have come together to give back by employing out-of-work theater artists while raising funds for artistic grants. The result? For those looking to support New York’s stagecrafters while following COVID protocols in style, there’s good news.
Designed by Broadway
At the center of this initiative are four custom face masks conceptualized by veteran Broadway costume designer Paul Tazewell. Tazewell’s work includes Tony Award-winning costumes for the smash hit musical Hamilton as well as the wardrobe for Steven Spielberg's upcoming film adaptation of West Side Story. These masks, now available for a limited time, represent a unique opportunity to own a piece of Broadway history while staying safe.
The masks are Broadway from start to finish: each one is manufactured by neffnyc, a COVID-born business started by theater and celebrity wardrobe specialist Matthew Neff. When the pandemic shut down his current production, Neff began making unique neoprene masks and posting them to his Instagram—and orders poured in from all over the world. He now works with fellow costumers, his company’s products hand-sewn by Broadway artisans who’ve lost their jobs due to COVID-19.
Created for a Cause
Partnering on the important fundraiser is the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, an organization that puts critical funds in the hands of extraordinary artists. Established in memory of Grace Kelly, Hollywood star and Princess of Monaco, the Foundation’s Princess Grace Awards have a long history of creating space for emerging artists in theater, dance, and film with life-changing grants. Past recipients include Leslie Odom Jr., who won a Tony Award for his role in Hamilton; celebrated choreographer Camille A. Brown; and director of the 25th installment of the James Bond franchise, Cary Fukunaga.
While Grace Kelly may be best known for her roles on the silver-screen, she celebrated live theater and had two Broadway credits to her name: The Father (1949) and To Be Continued (1952). The Princess Grace Foundation-USA is committed to furthering her support and love for the performing arts—which is why 100% of the proceeds from the four masks will go directly to funding foundation grants.
Made of Movie Magic
For the design of three of the face masks, what better inspiration for Tazewell to draw from than some of Grace Kelly’s most fashionable silver-screen moments in iconic Alfred Hitchcock films?
"Grace Kelly inspired generations with her on-screen presence and off-screen style,” says Tazewell. “I have turned to those notable images of Grace Kelly as sources of inspiration whenever I have researched productions set in the 1950s and 1960s. With these face mask designs, I wanted to truly embrace her style and most memorable dresses so that her iconic legacy continues to live on."
In 1954, Grace Kelly starred in Dial M for Murder, her fourth feature film and her first time working with Hitchcock. In the thriller, Princess Grace plays Margot Wendice, whose husband is plotting to murder her so that he can inherit her fortune—except the crime doesn’t work out as planned. In a pivotal scene, Grace Kelly wears a show-stopping red lace gown, inspiring the Dial M for Murder face mask that pairs punchy red lace with ominous spiral telephone cords.
Following in the same year, Rear Window cast Grace Kelly opposite James Stewart as high-society girlfriend Lisa Freemont, who assists her wheelchair-bound partner in solving a murder. In the film, Grace Kelly wears a stunning black-and-white tulle gown crafted by costume designer Edith Head, who would later introduce her to her namesake Hermès Kelly bag. The face mask inspired by Rear Window features an elegant black-and-white design complete with the iconic 1940s-style floral spray found on the dress.
No roundup of Grace Kelly and Alfred Hitchcock films would be complete without To Catch a Thief, released in 1955 and starring Grace Kelly opposite the dashing Cary Grant. During a masquerade ball scene, Grace Kelly wears a glittering gold lamé gown, and the face mask inspired by this movie is a beautiful golden fabric dappled with butterflies—just like the film’s iconic dress.
The fourth mask of the collection takes inspiration from the Foundation’s own noble logo. The sleek black fabric features an imprint with a cursive letter "g" and crown on top, a subtle nod to Princess Grace.
During this crucial moment when Broadway’s stages are dark, theater lovers can still make a difference. Add one of these unique face masks to your collection by making a $100 donation to the Princess Grace Foundation, and stay safe and stylish during the pandemic while supporting the artists and shows you care about.
Photo credit: Pinterest