Tonia Primm, CEO of the Sew Diva, is a fashion designer, seamstress and tailor based in Euclid who specializes in Afrocentric and artistic designs for both men’s and women’s evening attire. A mother of three and graduate of Case Western Reserve University with a bachelor’s degree in management, Primm is designing and selling custom-made safety masks, many with Afrocentric and artistic designs.
While she sells the masks to the general public, she offers custom-designed masks to health care workers for free.
Primm, who grew up in Cleveland, began her journey into the fashion industry at Bauder College in Atlanta. But she had other influences.
“My grandmother got me interested in creating patterns as a child,” she says. “And then there was home economics in [Shaker] high school.”
In 2017, after holding a position at Case Western Reserve University, Primm decided it was time to start her corporation. She began by creating her trademark and designing a logo. Primm then spent two years reinventing herself and growing her dream into reality.
Primm’s passion for her craft led her to branch off and accept a position in alterations at David’s Bridal Shop in Strongsville. But Primm always had a desire to combine her expertise in design with helping everyday people. In early 2020, that opportunity came.
When the coronavirus hit Cleveland hard in March — and local hospitals were short on masks — Primm received the call to start designing a face mask for health care employees. Primm wasn’t thinking of charging a fee for health care workers, nor did she intend to sell the masks for a profit until a friend of hers mentioned her on Facebook.
Suddenly, she received an abundance of requests from the public asking her to design custom-made masks. She sells her masks for $10 each to the public. They are free for health care workers.
“I make a disclaimer that a cloth mask does not protect 100 percent from the virus, but I do think they help reduce exposure because you are actively creating a barrier to protect yourself,” says Primm.
Carmen Hall, author of the book, “The Gift of Now,” and a client of Primm’s, says she thinks Primm was one of the first seamstresses she knew to start making masks with an Afrocentric flare.
“If I have to wear these masks, I want to be representing [my culture],” Hall says. “When I first saw them, I knew I had to get them from her.”
Alana McCladdie, an office manager at Care Tenders Home Healthcare and an existing client of Primm’s, says Primm holds a calm and genuine personality that is very reassuring.
“Her style as a designer is classic, edgy and fun,” McCladdie says. “I was not surprised that she would make [masks] as pretty as she did. My husband and I carry ours around everywhere we go.”
While the mask business has slowed down, Primm is still at it.
“I will continue to make masks if the call is made,” she says. “I am willing to offer help where I can be of service.”