Even during the worst of times, there are people who will profit in one way or another. When protests erupt and turn violent, for example, oftentimes a group of looters will ravage and steal stores; the same goes for wars. Other examples would include the current pandemic that has lead to a global economic downturn. Lives have been lost, mental states have been shattered, and too many businesses and employees have been deprived of their livelihoods, still, new markets have emerged and proved profitable.
Face masks, along with other items promoted as protectors from the novel coronavirus, have been seeing increased gain and popularity. Unlike sanitizers and gloves, masks are growing into a fashion statement and trend.
"The pandemic may end, but precaution and safety measure [sic] will stay a while, and face masks are here to stay," Lara Zarzour, Brand Manager and Owner of Lebanon-based clothing store ZED, told StepFeed.
The 27-year-old entrepreneur hopped on the wagon of producing face masks when the quarantine in Lebanon was imposed. As the owner of a made-to-measure and ready-to-wear suits and clothes store, Ms. Zarzour seized the opportunity to delve into this market.
"Demand is currently amazing, as many people prefer to have a cloth as a mask instead of using throwable ones," she explained.
This is quite relevant now as governments have been imposing fines on those littering public areas with masks. The UAE's Abu Dhabi and Ajman police have set 1,000-dirham ($272) fines and six black points as sanctions to be imposed on those throwing masks on the streets.
Substituting surgical masks with ones made out of fabric will ultimately reduce littering and, on the long term, recycling of the former. Another silver lining can be found in the popular adoption of non-medical masks by the general public, which will eventually lead to decreased shortage in surgical masks that are mandatory for healthcare professionals.
While Ms. Zarzour's clientele tips towards those 28 years of age and older, it is safe to say the need to protect toddlers and children also dominates the market. In the UAE, a breastfeeding and maternity fashion label is focusing on the little ones who might be difficult to convince when it comes to covering their face.
"Asking kids to do something by force doesn't always work, but if you make it fun for them and make something they love, they are unlikely to refuse," Natasha, founder of Nats & Jun, told Baby & Child.
The businesswoman designed "Protective Superhero Shields" for kids to keep them safe at all times. The visors come with different illustrations of superheroes or fuzzy, colorful dinosaurs placed on the headset as well as the cloth mask that's under the plastic shield.
In Saudi Arabia, face mask businesses are also growing as the assembly of a cloth protector can be as easy as watching a YouTube tutorial.
With new cases reported daily around the Arab region, governments have been pushed to implement fines when people out in public have a virgin face. In the UAE, hefty fines of 3,000 dirhams ($816) are imposed; in Saudi Arabia, 1,000 Saudi riyals ($266); and in Lebanon, 50,000 Lebanese liras ($33, disregarding the rollercoaster the lira is riding currently.)
The World Health Organization (WHO) released updates regarding face masks last week, advising the public on how and when to wear them as well as tips about masks produced with different materials.
Based on the global body's recommendations, a mask made of fabric (i.e. non-medical masks) should have three different layers.
"The ideal combination of material for non-medical masks should include three layers as follows: 1) an innermost layer of a hydrophilic material (e.g. cotton or cotton blends); 2), an outer most layer made of hydrophobic material (e.g.,polypropylene, polyester, or their blends) which may limit external contamination from penetration through to the wearer’s nose and mouth; 3) a middle hydrophobic layer of synthetic non-woven material such as polyproplylene or a cotton layer which may enhance filtration or retain droplets," the recent report explains.
With more insights and scientific advice on how to compile a proper mask, along with monetary fines and public fear, sales of non-medical face masks will keep on increasing. Add customized designs and colors, and you have a profitable trend not ready to budge soon.