Whether they protect you from the virus or not is a moot point. But the masks do prevent you from touching your mouth and nose – and their bright colour are a cheerful pick-me-up in dark times.
Since the Covid-19 travel bans, the company’s managing director Derek Peyroux has worked to ensure all his staff remain employed, and sewing masks for the Cook Islands is one way.
Zuliati took on the challenge a week ago, starting at 2,400 stitches per a minute. Today she’s sewing at a phenomenal 4,000 stitches per minute.
She sews with two other women, while others are cutting and preparing the material ready to be stitched.
She is the head tailor and leads the sewing of the bright colourful masks.
Zuliati who has been in Rarotonga for the past six months, says: “In Indonesia, we are used to seeing people wear masks and we make for protection from dusts or flu.”
She didn’t say much, but indicated she wanted to make sure no one else beat her record of sewing masks.
As we talk with Peyroux in his office in Arorangi, he is taking phone calls from government agencies placing their orders for facemasks.
Yes, he confirms to one government agency official, the 150 pieces are ready for pick-up.
About 20 of these unique Rarotonga facemasks are being used at the Gisborne Hospital – but he is filling local orders first. “Our concern is our people, here.”
Peyroux said he went into the pharmacy a month ago asking for a mask for his family and staff, but there were none available. That was when he saw the business opportunity.
When he was living in Bali for five years, there was a volcanic eruption. He was warned that a piece of material won’t protect you from everything.
So he uses three layers of the synthetic fabric Vilene as a filter and as the material to make the $5 facemasks, which are washable.
Years ago, he said the family had an embroidery company in Rarotonga and they sold the machines but kept the rolls of Vilene, which were sealed. When they decided to make masks, it came into good use.
Peyroux said they have bought an extra sewing machine from Vonnia’s, and his tailors are from Indonesia. “I know that Indonesians, they know how to sew masks, they are experts.”
They had completed over 2,000 facemasks, with the assistance of 11 home tailors whom he hired last month.
The home tailors sew masks that without the Vilene, that are given away for those who are in need.
They are paid a dollar per mask and if you are a fast sewer, like lead tailor Nanik Zuliati, that could add up to $40 an hour.
All masks have their benefits, Peyrouz says, but the main idea is to prevent people from touching their face, and controlling coughs and sneezes.
All his staff were still employed and were helping where they could in making the masks.
But since the Covid-19 pandemic precautions, Joyce Peyroux Garments has closed five of its seven outlets.
So now, they’re looking for new opportunities. Peyroux hopes to export more masks to New Zealand, and those number grow, he will need to hire even more home tailors.