Back in February, after months of ironing out contracts and securing visas, model Benji Staker was gearing up for a month-long working trip to China. Unsurprisingly, his plans were forced to change. “When the pandemic hit, it was a pretty big blow to me,” says Staker, who also moonlights as an artist. “I had been planning my year ahead based on that paycheck, so I paid six months for an art studio ahead of time.” His next step came as more of a surprise. Another source of income for Staker is catering work, and after a few weeks of panic, his staffing lieutenant reached out to him with the offer of an alternative means of working through the pandemic: helping to manufacture face shields for New York City medical workers.
“It was really a saving grace to me because not only is it work, it feels really good to be doing something to help right now,” Staker continues. “Maybe it’s not the most important thing in the world, but every bit of safety that we can offer these doctors that are in danger is a good thing.” Operating out of the Consortium fashion showroom and event space in the Meatpacking District, the team of around 40 are a mix of those who had previously worked for the showroom, and those who had been drafted in via the catering company. “It’s been nice, because these are people that I’ve worked with before in a different context, but there’s a whole different team that I’ve gotten to know, and the owners have really worked hard to make sure it’s comfortable and safe,” he adds.