Cloth facemasks fashioned out of common materials are quickly invading the market as additional voluntary public health measures in the advent of COVID-19
In response to the recommendation for N-95 face masks and respirators to be reserved for healthcare workers and other frontline medical personnel in the battle with the Coronavirus, local eco-friendly fashion business, Seatbelts & Open Spaces, has added cloth masks to its product lines. The cloth facemasks made by fashion designer Thuto Sekate’s company are designed to help the public slow the spread of the deadly virus and can be used as an additional voluntary public health measure.
“Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic a lot of creatives have felt a bit helpless sitting on the side lines,” Sekate explained to Time Out. “My father is the Councillor for Sikwane-Mabalane and I wanted to help him in his leadership role to donate a few face masks to the public. A lot of people are clearly interested since I posted them online.”
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant communal transmission. While wearing a cool mask can pick up someone’s mood in these depressing times, the masks are not a replacement for personal protective equipment and people should still maintain social distancing, washing their hands regularly and avoiding touching their faces.
Seatbelts & Open Spaces places an elegant spin to recyclable items ably that their mask designs are quite stylish. Featuring the same colourful print as their clothes, they use a lot of scrap fabrics to make fashion statements with their facemasks that are unisex and great for everyday wear. Made with a mix of African print material and linen fabrics, the masks are comfortable because they are easy to breathe in and very washable. In addition to making masks available to the public, the designer will be donating some to the people of Sikwane and Mabalane, his father’s council ward.
“I also saw an opportunity to turn my trash into treasure the best way I know how. There are a lot of questions about what the masks do and how much protection they offer. These masks are not 100% efficient but the idea is that some barrier is better than nothing,” said Sekate.
She completed 20 orders in a day before advertising the masks online. She now makes 50 pieces and aims to produce more because the demand has surpassed supply. “I am impressed by the kind of feedback I receive,” Sekate said. “People are educated and are well informed about this virus. They offer good suggestions for improving the product. Orders can be made online at Seatbelt & Open Spaces on Facebook. Delivery arrangements can be made and each piece sells for P50.”