Many of everyday fashion staples that were taken for granted were once rooted in utility. Jeans were designed as a solution to miners’ needs for durable work-wear. Pants were adopted by women when they entered the workforce in World War 1. And the invention of casual sportswear coincided with the new fast-paced lifestyles of Americans in the 1970s.
So while face masks are now being adopted to reduce the spread of COVID-19, they’re quickly becoming an everyday fashion accessory here to stay. Of course, this isn’t to play down the global pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic is not an excuse for a fashion show, but as people lose their ability to communicate through smiles and visual cues with most of their face covered up, they have to come up with alternative ways of making a first impression.
As the surgical N95 masks are in short supply, ordinary citizens instead opt for handmade masks. It’s important to note that these masks are not medical-grade, and do not fully protect one from the virus.
They can, however, help reduce the spread of the virus by those who are asymptomatic and offer incremental protection against liquid particles. Overall, a mask is better than no mask, and purchasing one provides struggling fashion businesses with an alternative stream of revenue.
Many are repurposing left-over materials in an attempt to reduce waste and upcycle. The masks were not originally intended for sale. Instead they create a fun and unique campaign that not only encourages people to self-protect with flair, but also inspires others to turn their talents into creativity during lockdown.
Weekend Life this week checked few fashion designers who are up all day and night putting in some creative magic, creating fashionable masks for donations, and few to earn some coin. In Tonota, chic fashion designer, Theo Khumo proposed that they be steered on which cloth is apt for creation of fabric masks.
‘’I think Ministry Of Health should guide us on the specification of the cloth masks. I am not an expert in doing masks but I think some people are just making 1ply masks to sell, gain profits and forget about what we are trying to curb. I have seen cloth masks being sold at P5.00 – P10.00 being of low quality, also putting the lives of Batswana in hazard.
May we do proper 3ply masks that companies, businesses and Batswana can appreciate and use? Let’s not just grab a single fabric and make a mask,’’ she said. Kaone Moremong, Founder of House of Kay said there is a need to open fabric stores to allow designers to obtain suitable material for designing funky face masks.
‘’People are using of any kind materials they have in their spaces and I do not blame them. Yes all fabrics will stop the droplets from reaching the next person, but at what expense? Respiratory conditions are countless, now imagine having asthma (or other problem) inducing chemicals from certain fabric dyes while trying to avoid a respiratory disease.’’
Meanwhile, government has issued legislation that makes it compulsory to wear masks or face coverings in public places, businesses and common areas of residential buildings from 1 May 2020.
Specifications have been issued in an official media release stating that medical and non-medical masks needed to be worn by members of the public. Whiles the medical versions are to be used by persons working in high risk areas, others have to wear the non-medical type.
“Cloth face mask or home-made item that covers the nose and mouth or another appropriate item that covers the nose and mouth when in a public place,” the release said of the non-medical masks.
The government urged the public to stick to non-medical masks in order to free scarce medical masks for health workers. Vendors are to sell medical masks to only persons in the medical profession, health workers, and persons handling clinical waste or involved in COVID-19 related activities.
Government cautioned that the use of the masks whiles helping to decrease the probability of contracting the virus also need be observed along with “specified personal hygiene practicing and social distancing.”
As the world mourns over the gravity of thousands of lives lost due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and the millions of lives around the globe it has affected, local fashion designers have not been spared.
WeekendLife caught up with a few fashion designers who said the novel coronavirus has severely disrupted their profit making season. There is no doubt that the fashion industry forms a huge part of the creative sector, which currently employed a lot of creatives. Today, the industry like many others is bleeding due to the pandemic, leaving many designers without income streams.
In an interview, Founder of Fierce Designs, Lucrecia Kgowane, who has showcased at Miss Botswana fashion show 2019 and FNB fashion show 2019, and also sponsor of ‘The annual Beauty with albinism Botswana’ explained that this has been the toughest season for fashion designers.
“As designers we were badly affected in the beginning because usually fashion designers in the country work looking at the calendar of events and weddings, mostly because our clientele do not buy clothes for casual wear but for events and weddings. More especially weddings because February, March, April, May is wedding season and it is also our peak season,” she said.
“So when the wedding season took over, weddings were cancelled. I had clients who cancelled their weddings, bridal showers and their dresses. National events were cancelled as well, events like Durban July, every event that people dress up to were cancelled. We ran out of business and closed our offices. Then from lockdown we were working from home.”
Amid all these, she explained that Debswana employed them to make masks for staff in bulk. “Before the masks, it was very bad because there was no income at all. Nobody was calling in for any dresses because they had nowhere to go. We were then contacted by Debswana to make face masks. So we are currently in contact with Debswana and making masks,” she said.
“Besides that we are making individual masks that are a bit outstanding and stylish compared to what we usually get from the shops. We tried doing designer masks for our clients to stand out. Right now every tailor designer is making face masks. We are trying as much as possible to do different types of masks to try and beat the market. This is how we recovered. It is not as good as it should be but it is not bad.”
She further explained that LEA in connection with Debswana helped with the contract for face masks, a project for LEA clients for Debswana. Currently, like many other fabric shops they are totally reliant on face masks for profit. She said they were bound to launch their new winter collection but until they can access fabric shops their hands are tied.
“Also, the masks that we make are unique and very stylish making wearing them fun and less stressful, we have turned them into accessories that one can match with any outfit and personally I see face masks existing even after coronavirus pandemic. They make a very strong fashion statement,” she concluded.
Very often people tend to underestimate the impact of culture and creativity as agents of economic growth.
According to the Cultural Times, the first global map of creative industry, revenues generated globally in 2013 from cultural and creative industries totaled US$2,250 billion and employed over 29 million people.
The current COVID-19 crisis is particularly critical for cultural and creative sectors due to the sudden and massive loss of revenue opportunities, especially for the more fragile players. Some actors benefit from public support (e.g. public museums, libraries, theatres) but may experience significant budget shortfalls.
The sector includes major multinational companies with sustainable revenues, but many small companies and freelance professionals essential for the sector could face bankruptcy. This crisis creates a structural threat to the survival of many firms and workers in cultural and creative production.
However, public and private companies have come to rescue creatives from this mess. I must say it is a welcome development for some creatives were already feeling some kind of blue, and who knows maybe something unscrupulous could have ensued because of a small thing as having nothing to sustain your life, which can only be money in this instance.
First National Bank Botswana FNBB has announced further details on the approved programmes and intended disbursements of its P1.5 million contribution to COVID-19 relief in support of the performing arts and creative industry.
Peo Porogo, the FNBB Director of Marketing and Communications said at times like these, they need the arts and culture more than ever, saying singing unites people, while dancing keeps them active.
‘’Each one of the activities that we have identified will help mitigate COVID-19 social impact and demonstrated how the arts, culture and fashion play a role in public health, social cohesion and resilience.’’
FNBB Foundation has issued a call for proposal in categories which support COVID-19 social communications, behavior change, entertainment and public safety which are music, fine arts, literary arts, dance, comedy, photography as well as short films. The group also looks to give money to online music shows and fashion.
FNBB wishes to run a digital writer’s workshop where attendants will be entered into an essay competition. The top 5 best essay’s will be rewarded P5000 each, while the facilitator will go home with only P10 000.
The bank says it has partnered with a local radio station to run a music show where artists will be challenged to record and submit songs that have an underlying message on the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘’Songs shortlisted will be entered into a competition where the top 3 will be rewarded an amazing amount of money.’’
Poetry has also been contained within the list. FNBB will extended sponsorship for two online poetry sessions each valued at P25 000, in which the theme will be Impact of COVID-19 on the Creative Arts. Short films also carry the same theme, but the amount of hard work put in these videos come with lot of coin, which amounts to P100 000 each participant.
Further, the bank looks to engage two associations that specialize in fine arts. ‘’The associations should have the experience and reach to facilitate online art lessons that will lead into an art competition. The jobs will be spread across different categories such as painting, drawing or sculpting, all valued at P35 000.’’
FNBB will also sponsor production of a COVID-19 memoirs photobook, a sponsorship that is open to producers who will facilitate purchase of photographic content from local photographers to be featured in this production. The sponsorship is valued at P75 000 including production and payment of content used.
Songbird sensation, Amantle Brown has released her first international collaboration with South African female rapper, Gigi Lamayne who is known for her collaborations with renowned artists the likes of Ricky Rick, King Monada and many more acclaimed.
The duo have released an upbeat song dubbed ‘Sedidi’, which refers to an unstable man who finds it hard to settle down in a committed relationship. The ‘Lethabo’ hitmaker shared with WEEKENDLIFE that she has always wanted to work with the renowned South African and thus decided to Direct Message (DM) her on social media for a collaboration and as the saying goes, “the rest is history”.
“I sent her a DM telling her I wanted to do a collaboration with her and then she responded. Afterwards she came to Botswana doing her radio tours and we linked and she added a verse to my song. It did not take much as I had already recorded the song, she only had to put a verse to it,” she said.
She further stated that the song is about a guy who is not certain about himself, as to whether he wants to commit and settle down in a relationship or run helter-skelter. “I am basically saying, how come you do not seem to be stable,” she explained.
“It is an amazing collaboration. Gigi Lamayne is such an amazing person, we have started being friends and we are communicating frequently. I was just telling her about my struggles this side and she told me about hers that side. Then we decided to help each other however we can to help market each other in our countries.”
Brown further stated that since working with the South African rapper she is now alive to many things. “Working with her taught me that, although we see these people having big platforms, we think they are living in abundance and everything is just cool with them but you get to notice that the challenges we face this side, they also face them that side, sabotages, promoters, plugging a song and many more. They have the same struggles as us, so we just need to put a bit of hard work.”
“She also touched on the fact that it is so hard for women to do collaborations together, but we need to realise that when we work together as women, we can build up to the respect that we want men to give us,” she said.
Known for her unique renditions, Brown gives her fans a heads up that this time around people should not expect the usual signature lyrical vocals that people have come to know her for.
“Its upbeat, it is also Caribbean and calls people to move. It is so empowering it is like we women are telling guys to sit down as they look like they are indecisive and that they must decide. It is like we are showing our power,” she said.
When asked whether men have a problem with commitment she said, “Well, this is a very complicated situation. I do not think there is no guy who can commit when he is not ready or when he doesn’t love the woman. A guy who genuinely loves a woman automatically that feeling hits him hard. If someone is not ready to settle they can never be with any woman no matter how beautiful and confident she is, there is nothing you can do to that guy. A man commits where he wants not when he is made to commit,” she said.