Mario De La Torre Shifts From Fashion to Make Face Masks for Farmworkers

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Mario De La Torre shifted his self-named Mario De La Torre Los Angeles design business from making fashion to making face masks. He has donated the masks to grocery-store workers and law enforcement. He recently expanded his efforts to include farmworkers.

“The people who need the most protection are our food-supply workers, they’ve been ignored,” De La Torre said.

He designed a four-layer mask made especially for farm workers. Instead of light cotton fabric, his masks use a heavier chino twill that can better stand up to the elements. Also included are two-layers of polypropylene fabric, which is used in surgical gowns. The masks also feature pockets to insert air filters if the wearer chooses to use such a filter. He was advised on mask design by friends who work as nurse practitioners.


Mario De La Torre in his downtown Los Angeles studio

To raise funds and to distribute the masks, De La Torre partnered with advocacy groups Justice for Migrant Women, Hispanic Heritage Foundation and National Center for Farmworker Health, Inc.

Mónica Ramírez, president and founder of Justice for Migrant Women, said that farmworkers have long been at risk for getting sick from pesticides and the elements. Now they are also at risk at getting sick from COVID-19, but they have fewer resources for care. “Rural clinics are in danger of closing because they don’t have the personal protection equipment the they need,” she said.

Justice for Migrant Women and partner groups have financed the mask production through grants and donations. Information regarding where to make donations and additional details regarding the project can be found via the Justice for Migrant Women site.