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Custom Coverings: Making Face Masks To Protect People’s Health, Earn Money

Mexican entrepreneurs are drawing on their creativity to design, sew and sell masks that help ward off COVID-19.

Mexican people have learned that to overcome any adversity that comes their way, fighting through their struggle is their only option. A timely example of this ideology is their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the rise of the health emergency, using a face mask to lower the virus’s spread became mandatory in many places. It prompted entrepreneurs to create their own mask designs to offer a more competitive and customizable market that saved several people’s lifestyles due to the lack of jobs.

“I started making cloth face masks some weeks after the first registered case in Veracruz,” said Trinidad García, a 67-year-old Mexican pensioner. “With my trusty sewing machine at my side, I made them at home.”

The rising demand for face masks

Some wore face masks with images of reindeer, pine trees, gifts, or even Santa Claus’s face during Christmas. Many people also adorned their masks with hearts, smileys, emojis, and several pastel tones during February, in honor of Valentine’s Day. Now that March is upon us, might green coverings for St. Patrick’s Day be next?

It’s a custom market, as people can opt to buy one that fits their interests, such as masks with the logo of their favorite soccer team or cartoon characters. Others have softer materials, glitter, funny prints, or are hand-made. There are even custom masks designed with the user’s face.

Local accessory and clothing stores are adapting to the event. Alongside their caps, socks and underwear, they’ve added face coverings to their offerings. They offer their customers enough variety for their day-to-day activities so that they can alternate and combine them with their clothes.

“When I started to create my own custom face masks, my kids’ classmates began to ask them where they bought the masks,” García said. “So, it came to me to put my designs on sale.”

Some customers ask for custom designs, colors or themes for their masks. (Christian Valera Rebolledo / Café Words)

Since wearing face masks became mandatory in so many places, entrepreneurs have invested in material and designs to create their products. Although there are disposable masks, cloth ones tend to be more attractive to the customers due to the ease of washing and disinfecting, which adds the possibility of reusing the face masks. Moreover, reusing them is better for the environment.

For a face mask to be effective, it must contain three layers. The inner one should absorb particles — be it saliva or mucus — while the outer one has a non-absorbent fabric. Finally, the middle one should serve as a filter. They must be big enough to cover the nose and mouth, as well as reaching the chin.

Homemade masks, such as those by García, are usually made of three layers of the same fabric to prevent saliva particles from entering or leaving. Some are made of gabardine, while others are made of cotton or rayon. The cloth has thread stitches that reinforce the masks and elastic straps to hold it behind the ears.

Some entrepreneurs run promotions in which they offer free face masks with the purchase of another item, such as blouses, to market other products. Others offer three masks for the price of two.

Another way to attract business is to make masks to order. Clients suggest colors, designs, and even sizes, and the entrepreneur works to fulfill the needs. This helps create loyal, repeat customers.

“She [García] is my Facebook friend, so I saw her face masks’ photos. I contacted her to buy five face masks for myself and five for my son,” said Cristina Rebolledo, a retired merchant in Veracruz, Mexico. “They turned out to be pretty good, as with constant washing, I have continued using them.”

The materials needed to make masks are not complicated, and most people have them in their homes. (Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash)

“Although full of fear, I followed the sanitary measures and went to a fabric store and bought several meters of different patterns,” said García. “I made them out of three layers of cloth. My first customers were my family’s acquaintances. I use two different designs, so I can be able to offer my customers some variety.”

As face masks will continue to be needed for the months to come, these entrepreneurs will continue to have jobs. People continue to search for new designs, colors, and sizes while having a layer of protection against COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.

(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez. Edited by Matthew B. Hall)

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