by Olatunji Saliu
From her small room at a low-income suburb in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, Deborah Olasupo makes scores of face masks daily for sale to cushion the excruciating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on her family.
Sourced from colorful fabrics, the local-made face masks in commercial quantities are produced with the aim of adding style and glamor to health and safety while making huge profits.
Borne out of the desire to survive the pandemic at all costs, many Nigerian designers are using their creativity to produce beautiful face masks at moderate prices. That is despite medical experts advising that such face masks do not provide effective protection from the virus.
“This is what we fell back on as a result of the pandemic. With this new venture, we can afford to make ends meet, as business slows down for us,” said Olasupo.
“This face masks production has become our new means of livelihood and we hope it will sustain us throughout this perilous time,” she said.
The mass production of fashionable face masks has provided many local designers with the lifeline to earn income to feed their families and remain in business as the ongoing partial lockdown has seen several people out of business.
Despite earning income from this new line of business, the big focus is to help Nigeria reduce the spread of the COVID-19 and ultimately overcome the pandemic.
According to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), the country recorded 553 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 9,855.
The use of face masks in public places was made mandatory by the Nigerian government when it eased lockdowns across the country since May 4. The mask fashion has helped a lot in obeying the government’s order.
It is most common to see the local-made masks on people’s faces, a lot more than the medical-grade face masks which earlier made huge sales at the onset of the pandemic in Nigeria.
The soaring prices of the medical-grade face masks which almost became unaffordable by the commoners gave rise to the acceptance of the local-made masks, but not without glamor and style.
“Most Nigerians are fashionable people. Even the poor among us love glamor and style. And the common man can get various designs at a very affordable price here,” Olasupo said.
It is a win-win situation for the buyers and sellers, said Tajudeen Agboola, who told Xinhua that the most style-conscious among the citizens, including himself, sometimes coordinate the fabric with their outfits.
“I wear different colors and designs of face mask that can go with any kaftan that I wear,” Agboola said. “Of course, this gives my fashion designer more money and I, too, can wear what I like while keeping to the safety rules given by the authorities.”
The organized private sector in Nigeria has continued to call on the government to look inwards in the supply of face masks to fill import gaps, particularly as big tailoring outfits now have thousands of face mask orders to meet on a weekly basis.
This new trend gives Nigerians the opportunity to adjust their designs to suit local realities, said Ibukun Esther Ajamu, another local fashion designer who receives hundreds of face mask orders daily. Enditem