TRENTON — Call him Fashionable Phil!
Gov. Phil Murphy often wears a protective mask for mitigating coronavirus, but the governor on Wednesday exhibited a totally unique cloth face covering during his COVID-19 press briefing.
“Good afternoon,” Murphy said. “I’ve gotta give Reed Gusciora, the mayor of the capital city, a shout out. He had an artist in Trenton make my mask, made one for the first lady, so another reason we are happy to be in the capital city.”
The designer of the black “Gov. Phil” face covering is city resident Andre McNair, 29, an up-and-coming fashion maker.
“He’s a very good salesman,” Gusciora said of McNair, “because he came in to donate my mask and afterward I thought it would be a good idea to use his local talent.”
Gusciora bought about 30 washable masks from McNair, who designed unique face coverings for public officials ranging from Trenton department directors to Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman at the mayor’s request, Gusciora said. “He’s a young talent, and we were happy to purchase a bunch from him.”
With the facial gear becoming “very popular at City Hall,” Gusciora decided to buy two more masks from McNair entailing special designs for the governor and First Lady Tammy Murphy, the mayor added.
“Everybody is talking about using these reusable masks, so they certainly come in handy,” Gusciora said Wednesday in an interview with The Trentonian. “Even the governor came out today wearing it. This shows that people can still conduct commerce even in coronavirus.”
McNair has been designing clothes for about four years and developed his “entrepreneurial spirit” as an apprentice of Kevin W. Wortham, co-founder of the Minding Our Business program at Rider University, but the fashion maker says he never imagined his unique face masks would be in such high demand.
“I am getting texts from everywhere,” McNair told The Trentonian on Wednesday. “It is definitely surreal. I guess it hasn’t really hit me yet.”
McNair is no newbie to face masks — he designed special coverings about three years ago for a local fashion show, he said. Now people from all over the Garden State would like him to design unique masks.
“I have been getting texts from officials everywhere all over New Jersey,” he said. “Even personal items like Eagles face masks. We also gave away 50 face masks — at least 50 to senior citizens of the city — just to contribute and give something back.”
“I want us all to make it past the curve,” McNair added, “and I have no issue with that.”
New Jersey as of Wednesday afternoon had 141,560 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, and at least 9,702 Garden State residents have died from the respiratory illness, data show.
In Mercer County, the City of Trenton has the most confirmed cases of coronavirus followed by Hamilton Township. The capital city as of Wednesday afternoon had 2,190 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 51 related deaths, while Hamilton Township had 1,144 total positive cases and 109 related deaths, according to local data.
“We still have not seen an end in sight to the pandemic,” Gusciora said Wednesday in a press statement, “and we are planning for a resurge in the fall.”
The governor, before re-masking at Wednesday’s press briefing, said New Jersey has had success in “flattening the curve” of new COVID-19 infections.
Wearing a McNair-designed face covering, Murphy would have never received the item from Gusciora if the young entrepreneur had never reached out to the mayor.
“My brother, he set up the entire connection,” McNair said, referring to his sibling Corey McNair, a Trenton cop who serves as Gusciora’s driver and security detail. “He sent me a text and said, ‘Hey, I want you to make one for the mayor.’”
“I made one for the mayor and made one for Mr. Andrew Bobbitt as well,” Andre McNair said, referring to Gusciora and a mayoral aide. From there, the rest is history.
“It is definitely a blessing for sure,” the fashion maker said. “It is super rewarding.”