Jacksonville woman making name for herself with inspirational mask idea

Black History Month

Michelle Collins Windell (Contributed photo)

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — The power of social media through the coronavirus pandemic is proving to reign supreme.

For one Jacksonville woman, it changed the course of her life. Michelle Collins Windell said what started out as a passion is now her everyday reality. She is a mother, wife, veteran and local fashion designer, shipping her handmade masks to local communities, overseas and even to celebrities.

“We went to the appointment, I came home, posted it on Facebook and the rest is history,” Windell said.

It all started at the beginning of the pandemic. Her son had a doctor’s appointment. He has asthma, and she wanted to keep him protected.

“I said what do you want, he said a Spiderman, so I made him a Spiderman mask,” Windell said.

One post to the internet is all Michelle needed. Then her creative side took over.

“I have made over a thousand and some, I’ve donated some to medical, I have shipped as far as South Korea,” Windell said.

All of that from her Jacksonville home studio.  

“I have made for the designer of the jury for the Black Panther movie, I have made for Cynthia Bailey of the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and her now-husband Mike Hill, who is on ESPN.” 

Windell is also receiving recognition from magazines and Instagram influencers for her masks. Windell’s knack for design developed long ago. It started when she lost weight and was looking for clothes to make her feel good about her body.

“I started making skirts so I would have a skirt to wear to church, and I was asked by one of the elders of the church to make a skirt for her,” Windell said. “Posting on social media, it went from there.”

Windell said the passion turned into a form of therapy when people in her life started to become sick. Now, with COVID-19, that therapy gave her a way to help people with a critical need — masks.

“I didn’t know what sleep, was I was just sewing and shipping, sewing and shipping, and I’m still doing that,” she said.

Windell’s brand is MCW Original. Her handmade medical-grade designer masks have three protective layers with a fashion front. You can probably tell, orders are coming in quickly.

“This is one of my masks here, it is velour and sequins,” Windell said of a mask she was showing. “I was also making the matching headwraps to go with them.”

Windell’s masks aren’t the only thing making waves around social platforms. Her drive and passion have turned her into a role model.

“In the beginning of the pandemic, I was an instructor at a camp where I taught them how to make face masks,” Windell said. “I had one actually mimicked me as a fashion designer. That was exciting.

“It felt good. Parents were saying ‘now I have to by my little one a sewing kit’,” Windell said.

Her mentor message to young entrepreneurs is something she learned throughout this journey.

“Never think negatively about yourself because you just never know,” Windell said. “Here it is, I was in a sewing room in my home and it just turned into what it is now. It’s mind-blowing. I’m still mind blown.”  

Windell and her masks will take to the runway on Valentine’s Day. She’ll be part of a virtual fashion show aboard Camp Lekeune that is honoring Military marriages.

Windell said she plans to keep building her brand and inspiring others along the way.

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