Made in Tribeca: The timely creations of Ruthy Byers

I would have told you a mask is a mask is a mask had I not seen — and now regularly worn — the ones longtime A Uno manager Ruthy Byers is making. Though it makes sense. Leave it to an expert tailor with roots in the fashion industry to have figured this one out.

There’s more to the story, but if you want the short version, they are $25 and sold at the store or here on her website designed for this purpose.

Byers turned to her sewing skills when the lockdown started in March, joining a Broadway relief project and making 40 PPE gowns a week. “I had to do something when we were shut down.” After that first crisis, she did a little more research and began making masks for friends who were nurses and the staff at the Park Slope food coop. When it became clear cotton was also a good filter, she started testing designs on her husband and son, both of whom are tough customers, aiming for something comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time.

The design she settled on has straps to go behind the ears, but also one that loops behind the head and two that can be tied around the neck; when it’s not being worn actively, that same strap allows it to hang around the neck at any length. When Byers bikes to work, she wears it with the fabric hanging a bit looser at the bottom, so air can slip in. There’s a removable aluminum nose strip and cord locks on the ear loops.

She mostly uses batik and Japanese fabrics on the outside, which have a tight weave but are still soft to the touch, and high thread count cotton on the inside. Her masks come in different sizes and she will also make them custom from fabrics the client provides; for one customer at A Uno, she made a mask from the trimmings of a tailored dress to match. (That’s Lance and Ivy Lappin sporting the masks below.)

Byers, 57, has been sewing since she was a young girl in Austria, making clothes for her Barbies alongside her mother, who made her family’s clothes. She went on to fashion design school, a five-year program that covered every aspect of the business. “That’s why I am a good tailor and I love precise work.” She left Austria for Milan and then Paris, where she was picked up as a model by Armani.

“Designers liked to work with me because I appreciated how they work as stylists and with fabric — I can be in a fabric store for hours and I don’t even feel the time passing,” she said. “I even enjoyed working late nights — I was not one of those bored models, I always considered myself lucky that I was pretty enough to work in modeling.”

Her work as a fitting model for Ralph Lauren, where she also shot a campaign with Bruce Webber, brought her to the states 30 years ago, but would not have kept her here had she not met her husband, who convinced her to stay. She worked as a stylist for commercials, and then with the French she learned from her Paris modeling days, she started repping clothes for Girbaud, which brought her to A Uno owner Ann Benedetto’s first store in Soho. That relationship has lasted decades.

“Our clothes are quite special, and clients would get them tailored at the dry cleaner, so I decided pretty much from the beginning that I would have to step in.”

Byers has been the manager at A Uno since they opened here and still does all the store’s tailoring. “I take pride in my work, and I have an eye — I know where to change things on every size and shape of woman and I do it so you can’t tell it was done. It has to be as beautiful as possible.” She would have it no other way.



  1. A lovely review and Ruthy’s eye for style and tailoring talents have been enhancing my wardrobe for years – and now I have a perfect stocking stuffer for all my friends and family

  2. congrats Ruth, with everything that you are doing, your artistic inspirations are showing! A great review on your talent. Hugs from Vienna

    • Hi Zigi !
      Thank you! I am happy too make masks that are beautiful and functional and comfortable to wear !
      Much love from NYC to Vienna !❤️😊❤️

  3. Such a lovely piece.

  4. Such beautiful fabrics! Just ordered some.