#bumble | #tinder | #pof Column: Former ‘Project Runway’ winner teams up with Jack in the Box


In 2015 local fashion designer Ashley Nell Tipton won the national “Project Runway” competition. At age 24, she was the first to win the show for creating a plus-size clothing line.

Today Tipton is trying to decide how to turn 40 boxes containing 3,500 Jack in the Box T-shirts into face masks.

When the novel coronavirus emerged, and life as usual ceased, she and her Hillcrest design team brainstormed about what they could do to both help the community and send a positive message.

They decided to use leftover designer fabric to make and sell face masks. She floated the idea on Instagram and overnight received an avalanche of 200 purchase orders and 150 requests for mask donations. That was on March 19.

Since then the Tipton team has produced as many as 4,000 face masks ordered through her website, ashleynelltipton.com. The crew of three now has expanded to include Tipton’s mother and father, both furloughed from their respective convention center and machinist jobs, a part-time Uber driver and three other friends who had been laid off.

In Tipton’s studio, they spread out fabric (she uses four layers of cloth and two layers of felt to make each mask) and bands of elastic that have user-friendly construction to relieve pressure on the wearer’s ears. Trader Joe’s in Hillcrest ordered re-usable masks for its employees made from the Hawaiian shirts they wear. The Bumble dating app folks asked Tipton to make 100 masks using bandanas bearing its logo.

San Diego-based fashion designer Ashley Nell Tipton pauses for a laugh in her studio wearing a makeshift “shawl” of coronavirus face masks under construction.

(Courtesy photo)

Soon, though, she was scrambling to find fabric to make donated masks. Tipton, who graduated from University City High School followed by Fashion Career College in 2012, negotiated for material from a closed fabric shop in South Park. Then she started going to L.A. fabric suppliers and put a plea online for donations of material.

Officials at Jack in the Box saw her request and performed a miracle. “We learned that Ashley was working hard to make masks for front line responders here in San Diego,” says Adrienne Ingoldt, a senior vice president. “We quickly reached out and provided her with thousands of unused uniforms to use as materials.”

Tipton is trying to figure out the most effective way to turn the 3,500 red and maroon T-shirts into masks. She figures she can get six to 12 masks from each, depending on the shirt size.

“I live in Hillcrest and I see lot of people, especially the homeless, walking around without masks, and it breaks my heart,” Tipton says. “I would love to be able to simply walk around my community and pass them out.

“I feel like this is the new chapter in my life — a blessing in disguise. It’s so nice to do something I enjoy doing that helps people while giving back to the community. It’s a win/win situation.”

Face masks, which could be part of our wardrobes long after the coronavirus fades, can become a fashion statement or an expression of a person’s personality or how they are feeling that day, the designer reasons. She sees them as a way to put a smile on a passerby’s face and is even toying with the idea of making masks that look like the mouths of celebrities.

“I want to express a sense of humor with face masks,” Tipton says. “But, right now, I’ve just been trying to fill orders.”

Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell applauds for first responders and sings from his N.Y.C. apartment window shortly after 7 p.m. to celebrate the medical workers combating COVID-19 during the coronavirus pandemic. This photo was taken April 21, 2020.

(Rob Kim/Getty Images)

The un-masked singers: Like opera soprano Victoria Robertson, who has been singing Sunday arias on her North Park front porch, two-time Tony-winning thespian Brian Stokes Mitchell is getting into the act.

The veteran stage and screen performer, who launched his career at San Diego Junior Theatre, has been entertaining throngs of New Yorkers every evening from his high-rise apartment window in New York City.

As if the curtain were rising, he appears each night at 7 p.m. just after New Yorkers have flung open their windows to join in a chorus of applauding, cheering and pan banging to honor essential workers during this coronavirus pandemic.

When the noise dies down, Mitchell revs up his rich baritone and belts out “The Impossible Dream,” from “Man of La Mancha.” He starred in Broadway’s 2002 revival of the musical, earning a 2003 Tony nomination for his performance.

Brian Stokes Mitchell, center, wearing black, as Conrad Birdie in the 1973 San Diego Junior Theatre production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” Mitchell is one of several Tony Award winning actors who started at San Diego Junior Theatre.

(Courtesy of San Diego Junior Theatre)

The un-masked singers: Like opera soprano Victoria Robertson, who has been singing Sunday arias on her North Park front porch, two-time Tony-winning thespian Brian Stokes Mitchell is getting into the act. The veteran stage and screen performer, who launched his career at San Diego Junior Theatre, has been entertaining throngs of New Yorkers every evening from his high-rise apartment window in New York City.

As if the curtain were rising, he appears each night at 7 p.m. just after New Yorkers have flung open their windows to join in a chorus of applauding, cheering and pan banging to honor essential workers during this coronavirus pandemic.

When the noise dies down, Mitchell revs up his rich baritone and belts out “The Impossible Dream,” from “Man of La Mancha.” He starred in Broadway’s 2002 revival of the musical, earning a 2003 Tony nomination for his performance.

When Mitchell was 13, his family moved to San Diego where his dad was a civilian engineer with the U.S. Navy. At age 16, Mitchell made his professional acting debut in the Old Globe Theatre’s production of “Godspell.” He went on to a career that spanned TV, film and stage.

On April 1, the 62-year-old actor revealed on Twitter that he had tested positive for COVID-19 followed a few days later by personal messages announcing his recovery.

“I got hit with a fever. I got hit with body aches and chills…. There was a period I couldn’t sing without coughing,” he confided during a Chris Wallace TV interview this week.

For the past several years, Mitchell has chaired The Actors Fund, which provides emergency financial assistance for those in the entertainment industry, many of whom are now in need of help.

Mitchell’s high-rise performance is his way of thanking essential workers and first responders. As he sings “The Impossible Dream,” he sometimes changes the lyrics to recognize healthcare personnel, firefighters, sanitation workers and others who do their jobs despite their personal health risk.

“At the end, when people clap, I always throw their applause to those first responders and the health care workers,” he said on National Public Radio, “and kind of just remind everybody: This is why we’re doing this. This is why we’re here. This is who we’re applauding.” Bravo, Brian Stokes Mitchell!

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