Trenton fashion designer and entrepreneur Andre McNair has uncovered something uniquely artful, yet practical. From Trenton City Hall to the governor’s office to the Taiwanese ambassador, McNair took face masks to an entirely new level without any anticipation of its need and popularity being triggered by the pandemic.
It all started about two years ago when McNair traveled to Las Vegas and noticed people wearing face masks, not for protection, but as part of a fashion statement. When returning from Vegas, McNair, who already had a clothing line, seized the opportunity to design face masks in Trenton. He thought “here maybe people will think that it was kind of cool.” So, he began designing the masks and even displayed them at a fashion show he was invited to participate in.
About two years later, amid the global pandemic, McNair already knew how to make masks and promote them as well. His brother, who serves as the mayor’s protector, encouraged McNair to make a face mask for the mayor. “I said ‘okay I think I’ll make it for him,’ but he probably won’t wear it. He’ll probably just throw it in his desk, but at least I’ll know I made it for him,” said McNair.
Not long after McNair presented the masks to Mayor Gusciora and Mayoral Aide Andrew Bobbit, the mayor requested 20 face masks for the surrounding mayors in New Jersey including the mayors of Princeton and Lawrenceville as well as City of Trenton staffers. It took McNair about three days to design the masks to fill these orders and with great excitement, 35 additional masks were requested for a full list of people including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy.
“I thought to myself ‘wow I’m making masks for the governor.’ I didn’t even think I’d be doing something like this,” said McNair. Governor Murphy wore one during his COVID Press Conference where he acknowledged Mayor Gusciora and the Trenton designer (McNair) who made the face mask. About twenty minutes later, the Mayor called McNair and told him that the Trentonian was looking to do a story. Sure enough, as soon as he hung up the phone, the Trentonian called and ran the piece on May 14th.
After the article, the mayor of Lawrenceville and Hamilton reached out to McNair requesting masks for them and all of their council people. The Mayor of Lawrenceville even made a personal visit to McNair’s home to retrieve his masks. Two months later, the mayor called to say it’s time to go international and that he needed two face masks for the Ambassador of Taiwan. After travelling to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, McNair took a picture with Ambassador Lily L.W. Hsu and presented her with the masks.
What an amazing ride for Andre McNair, who has been making masks for establishments in Trenton like McDonalds, Starbucks and others. Born and raised in Trenton in the North Ward, McNair was groomed by Kevin Wortham from Minding Our Business, who taught him in 7th grade and showed him the blueprints to entrepreneurship.