About quarantine and masks

At the beginning of March, a new collection of linen embroidered clothing was ready for presentation. We decided to sew masks of the remaining fabrics. The demand was huge. During the first week, we used all the fabric we had. When we bought a new batch, the price turned out to be higher but even more difficult was the situation with a price for the rubber band. Our suppliers simply didn’t have it. Therefore, I had to buy it at inflated retail prices. After the quarantine announcement, panic among workers increased. On the one hand, we had orders for masks, and on the other, it became scary to communicate. That is why we quickly reformatted our production, dividing people and equipment in separate premises, providing almost contactless transfer of products, purchasing disposable solutions, which also jumped wildly in price. Another test was the stoppage of the city’s public transport. This forced us to hire additional couriers. Consequently, we set the price for a three-layer reusable mask at 40 UAH, so as not to be lossmaking.

Managers were accepting orders for masks from home offices. Our director was remotely forming a letter of orders, and the technologist endlessly in remote mode was advising masters how to sew masks technologically properly. Couriers were supplying materials, collecting finished goods, then delivering them to customers and mailing pre-orders. And all this time I was managing this transformation from home and paying the bills because I was self-isolating myself for 2 weeks since the day before the quarantine announcement I returned from abroad.

Suddenly, we were exploring a completely different market – spontaneously formed by panic, confusion and a mass of negative information. I am sure that everyone can sew a mask on their own. Therefore, we were very pleased that people trusted us and wanted to buy from us. A lot of thanks came from FB and Instagram, we got orders for masks of unusual colours or with embroidery. Some dealers suggested that they would buy from us, whatever we made, for resale.

There were also dissatisfied customers – we were accused of a "shameless" price of 40UAH on linen three-layer masks, criticized for not enough standard sizes, delays in the work of couriers. Yes, we made mistakes: confusing orders, colours, placing less or more in the parcel than was ordered. Remote work also affected standards, especially in the first week. When dressmakers work in a shop and their work is constantly monitored by a technologist, it is easier to achieve better quality than managing remote production. However, we corrected these defects.

The interesting thing was the taste of our customers. Black masks were the most popular. In the second place: white and beige. It even forced us to develop a new model: a black – beige mask. Purple, blue and yellow were the next highest priority orders. More often than other locals, the people of Kyiv ordered bright colours: red and green. One more interesting observation: children like our masks:)

They could not wait until their order arrives so they could gladly wear them. Regarding styles, we have developed 2 types of masks: with folds and “muzzles”. The audience was divided into three categories: some required folded masks, others wanted “muzzles”, and the third part did not care. Therefore, after misunderstandings with several clients, we left the masks in the most popular colours “in the folds”, and began to sew the coloured “muzzles”. Sewing the latter is more difficult, and therefore more expensive, so they are less popular.

No matter how beautiful the textile masks are, we encourage, wherever possible, the use of medical masks of the highest protection. And these masks as a replacement, when there are no medical or when there are not enough medical (to change every 2-4 hours).

For today, the project “masks” is lossmaking for us. Nevertheless, I still think it’s a win. I am very proud of our work and our team. We were able to adjust in the short term and help fill the “mass vacuum” caused by the epidemic. The number of loyal customers has increased. Our social media pages have become more popular.

Now the wave of orders has decreased. We left on sale gift sets of 5 coloured masks for 290UAH, and masks for 40 UAH each. I am sure that such an accessory will not go out of modern fashion for a long time, even after the epidemic is over.

Victoria Kolodiy