Masking your identity

Madison Leiren celebrates pride in heritage with NORSE masks

The Norwegian American

Norse masks - Madison Leiren

Photo courtesy of Madison Leiren
Designer Madison Leiren models her Norwegian mask.

This time of year, Madison Leiren is usually sewing up a storm to fill orders for summer brides. The Seattle designer is known for her custom wedding dresses, full of intricate details inspired by her Norwegian heritage.

But these days, Leiren’s production has taken a different direction, as things have been put on hold with the postponements of summer weddings because of COVID-19. Nonetheless, she is just as busy, except now, she is making masks for her new company NORSE (

When COVID-19 hit, it was a triple whammy for Leiren: orders for her design business were down, she was laid off from her second job in the hospitality industry, and the annual 17th of May festivities in Seattle were canceled.

“It was a feeling of loss for me and my family,” she said. The big parade in Ballard is always the highlight of the year for us. It felt real,” she said.

But Leiren is not one to feel down for too long, and soon her entrepreneurial spirit kicked into action. She wanted to show her ethnic pride and came up with the concept of Norse masks, creating her first design with a Norwegian flag motif.

“In the time of the coronavirus, it gives you the same feeling of putting on a bunad,” she said. “I wanted to make something to give you strength and a sense of community.”

Norse masks

Photo courtesy of Madison Leiren
Norse masks are designed to be both practical and stylish.

Leiren works from home and orders her fabrics online. The masks comply with the quality standard set for the general public by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and are easy to wash. They are designed to be both practical and stylish.

And it’s not just Norwegians who can enjoy this unique experience of pride. Leiren soon expanded into making masks for the other Nordic countries and is now taking custom orders for other nationalities and themes. One of the most popular models for men is the Seattle Seahawks-themed “12th Man” mask.

“If you can relate to your mask, it takes some of the scariness away,” she said. “Everyone is on hold for now, but I want people to feel comfortable with their masks.”

And comfortable they are—and fun. As editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, I feel great wearing mine. The masks retail for $35 plus tax and shipping and can be ordered online at Be sure to place your order by May 1 if you would like to receive it by Syttende mai. And if you purchase your mask during the month of May and enter the code “NORAM” in the order notes, a percentage of the profits will be donated to The Norwegian American.

To learn more about Madison Leiren, see also:

This article originally appeared in the May 8, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.