Heavy Chef’s Top 6 Non-Surgical Mask Makers In SA Right Now

For some time now, face masks have been a contentious subject. Opinion has been divided about whether they are actually an effective tool in curbing the spread of COVID-19 or a hindrance. 

According to the World Health Organisation, medical masks should be used by individuals that are either sick or taking care of people who are sick. This advice has been, in part, a response to that the fact that there has been a global shortage of medical masks. People have been discouraged from purchasing medical masks because the few that are available should be reserved for medical personal who are risking their lives in the daily fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, masks have been discouraged because they tend to give users a false sense of security, making them less prone to taking other precautions. 

What about cloth masks then? A similar concern has been shared where non-surgical masks are concerned. However, many countries around the world have still encouraged their populations to don cloth masks in public situations for the following reasons:

  • They reduce the transmission of droplets when you sneeze or cough
  • They prevent users from inhaling droplets from others
  • Help reduces users’ exposure in overcrowded areas
  • Serve as a reminder not to touch your face

In his address to the nation last week, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa shared our government’s stance on the subject. The verdict? That masks can be useful for curbing the spread of the virus and should be used in addition to other safety measures likes washing hands and social distancing. Ramaphosa called on everyone to wear a mask whenever they leave their homes or find themselves in busy, public spaces, such as in supermarkets and when using public transportation.

Although non-surgical masks are not regulated and therefore can’t be checked to see if they meet the safety requirements, some guidelines still apply. Non-surgical cloth masks should:

  • Include multiple layers of fabric to reduce the chances of virus particles permeating through the cloth
  • Be breathable
  • Have securely attached ear loops to keep them snugly in place
  • Be kept dry as moisture creates an environment that allows the virus to thrive
  • Be thoroughly washed and/or sanitised after every use
  • Should be made from a material that can maintain its shape and effectiveness even after regular washing

A number of local small businesses have pivoted their businesses to producing non-surgical masks in this period. The coolest thing is that each of these businesses has found ways to give back to the community through their initiatives, even when in dire need themselves. We take our hats off. 

Here is a list of some of Heavy Chef’s favourite locally-made masks.

Imprint ZA By Mzukisi Mbane

There is nothing boring about Mzukisi Mbane and we can certainly say the same about his masks. Mzukisi is the owner and designer of Imprint ZA. The Khayelitsha-born designer now resides in Johannesburg and has been dressing the country’s biggest stars for the red carpet for a few years now. Amidst the restrictions of the nationwide lockdown, Mzukisi has pivoted his business into creating beautiful, functional cloth masks. Made from fabric offcuts he has collected over the years, the masks are not only reducing his fabric waste footprint but proceeds from sales also go to feeding underprivileged communities in Cape Town. 

Thursdays By Shona Macdonald

Thursdays’ new range of face masks looks as comfortable as their range of underwear is. Cape Town-based lingerie and swimwear brand Thursdays is owned by Shona Macdonald. The brand is known for their inclusive range, being one of the few local brands that design comfortable lingerie and swimwear that supports breast size DD-cup and up, a sector of the market that is largely ignored. Thursdays has now added non-surgical face masks to its product list. They produce their masks from their swimwear factory in Atlantis, using a 100% cotton outer layer and a double layer of 100% polypropylene. Keeping their swimwear factory open has meant retaining jobs for some of their employees, a vital consideration in a time when many people are losing their jobs.

Inga Atelier By Inga Gubeka

If there is such a thing as a sexy mask, this is it. Inga Gubeka is the owner of contemporary lifestyle brand Inga Atelier, which is well-known for its beautifully designed, luxury leather goods. In light of the pandemic and the resulting restrictions, the Cape Town native has turned his attention to creating re-usable yet stylish non-surgical masks that he believes will reduce the environmental waste caused by using disposable masks. Inga’s mask designs are made from synthetic leather on the outside and layers of polypropylene on the inside. The mask can be washed and sanitized for multiple uses. Inga has donated 1500 masks to various NGO’s for allocation to the less fortunate.

Sexy Socks By Dave Hutchison

Sexy Socks has been a Cape Town staple for some time now. The bamboo sock company is owned by Dave Hutchison and was started to provide underprivileged children with socks to wear to school by donating a pair of socks to township schools for every pair sold. Fast forward to 2020 and the brand is still on a mission to make a difference. The business is now producing masks to help curb the COVID-19 pandemic while empowering local enterprise. Not only are their face masks made locally by a women’s empowerment project that uses fabric off-cuts but a portion of the profit from the masks will go towards providing face masks to vulnerable communities. The reusable masks themselves are sexy too – made with tightly woven cotton twill, a built-in cotton filter and mixed fabric with gorgeous designs. ⠀

Rea’Nubia By Nolitha Qhuma

This one is a personal favourite. Before everyone else jumped on the reusable mask bandwagon, and even before the lockdown was announced, Nolitha Qhuma was producing and selling these beautifully designed masks. Based in Khayelitsha, she’s the owner of Rea’Nubia, a clothing brand that has been going from strength to strength with little to no funding and only her vision and will in hand. Nolitha has successfully pivoted her business from just making beautiful clothes – her masks are reversible and approved by medical professionals and can be found at the Spar Graceland Pharmacy at Khayelitsha Mall. 

Ballo By Alistair Barnes

From making some of the coolest glasses in the business to making some of the coolest masks in the business. Alistair Barnes is the brains behind Ballo, a range that is synonymous with conscious, laid back style. The brand is famous for its recycled and upcycled sunglass range, which reduce and reuse waste, and plant a tree for every pair of glasses sold. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the brand has now turned its attention to handcrafting beautiful masks from sustainable fabrics and resources. Their masks feature a pleated double-layer cotton cloth construction that is comfortable and easy to fit. Staying true to form, for each non-surgical face mask sold, another is donated to someone in need.