As a self-described “germophobe,” Ashley Finestone recalls that her anxiety over where to safely store her face mask when not in use was nearly as stressful as the COVID-19 pandemic itself. “I remember walking around Aventura Circle not having a place to put my mask when no one was around,” says Finestone, 34. “I didn’t want to put it in my pocket or in my belt bag with my keys and money where it could become contaminated, so I improvised and hung it from my necklace where it was waiting for me to use again.”
What followed, she says, is the aha moment she likens to an episode of Shark Tank: She decided to design a fashionable—and functional—mask chain. Finestone ran home, grabbed some paper, emptied necklaces from her closet to gauge the ideal length, and began sketching, using her fashion-forward mother, Phyllis, as a design sounding board. “I had faith in the idea,” says the McGill University graduate who majored in marketing and entrepreneurship. “Within a week, I placed my first order of 200 pieces.”
She dubbed her invention Miami Mask Chains, and in June 2020, she hand-delivered the first acrylic “OG” collection to 20 of her closest friends, who promptly shared them on their Instagram pages. Finestone then built a website and received her first order two weeks later.
Since the brand’s inception, Finestone has designed 10 collections, including 18-karat-gold plated “So Link” and “Evil Eye” chains with hand-painted enamel. Additional collections range from the Chanel-inspired “Per Suede” and the Versace-inspired “Safety First” safety pin collection to popular chunky styles with names like Bold N’ Gold Matte, Tropical Turquoise, Vanilla Latte, and Boss Black. “I wanted the names to sell themselves,” says Finestone. “But even more importantly, I wanted high-quality, durable chains that felt secure, that were formulated to hold a mask, wouldn’t rust, and could double as stunning jewelry.”
Through “dozens of hours of research,” Finestone sourced the same chains that adorn multi-thousand-dollar designer purses. “Manufacturers would say, ‘Ma’am that is for handbags,’ and I would respond, ‘Perfect. If it holds a handbag, it won’t break. That’s what I want, but in a custom color created for me,’” she recalls.
Her latest collection, “Power Pearls”—a half pearl, half Cuban link chain—wasn’t yet for sale when a customer bought it off her neck at Miami Juice. To date, 30,000 mask chains have been sold in 200 boutiques from Miami to Mumbai and online. She also has a new jewelry collection in the works. Finestone’s greatest joy is realizing new business success and interacting with customers: “I still get a thrill when I see one of my mask chains on the street, hear what people love about them, and realize others are just as germ-averse as I am,” she says.