Meeting the demand for reusable, sustainable face masks

, , , ,

The face masks created by Moon Mood and Irish Linen House are the most popular on our site. Here, we chat to the makers about how they adapted their businesses during the crisis to produce sustainable face coverings

It’s a scary and challenging time for Irish makers, as consumers are hesitant to spend and bricks and mortar shops are closed. Prepared to innovate and adapting their creative skills, designers and craftspeople across Ireland have started making reusable face masks from cotton and linen, which you can read about here in our comprehensive list. It has been one of the most popular posts on our website, ever, as people all over the country and further afield try to source safe and comfortable masks for themselves and their loved ones.

Masks made by Irish makers Moon Mood and Irish Linen House are the most sought after on our website. We asked them about the challenges of transforming their business during lockdown, meeting the intense demand for masks, and what the future looks like for their companies.

Moon Mood

Moon Mood was founded by Joanna and Tomasz Luczak, who design and make natural bedding and accessories for children in their studio in Killaloe, Co Clare. The products are available in beautiful patterns, in cotton material that is pleasant to touch, soft, and breathable, giving comfort during sleep. Here, Joanna shares how her personal motivation to wear a mask inspired the new venture for the business.

Joanna, how has the crisis affected your business?
Our company is based mainly on online sales, so we were a bit worried when orders decreased dramatically when it all started. We had to cancel the pop-up shop we were going to participate in with other Irish brands. Any opportunity to meet our customers, so they can see our products in real life, is very important for us and our online business. Hopefully we will be able to organise something in the near future.

What made you decide to start making masks?

To be honest, everything happened so fast. I remember watching a video online about the advantages of wearing masks in public, and as a person from a higher risk group I wanted to have a mask for my own protection. My friend Anna encouraged me to start making them for our Moon Mood customers. It was totally organic. I made a couple of masks for my family and some friends, and after a few days I posted some online. I tried a few different shapes and patterns and picked out the one that was the most comfortable to wear.

What did it take for you to get set up to make face masks?
I’ve always paid attention to design, but above all, it’s all about the quality of the products that I use for sewing. My products are made from high-quality cotton, produced for us in the EU. It’s very important when it comes to products that are touching your skin. It wasn’t difficult to switch to working with masks because we had all the fabric we needed already in the studio. It had been printed for bedding and other accessories. And luckily, my husband found us a huge quantity of elastic, which we use for our cot sheets, just before the pandemic. Right now it’s more expensive and impossible to get.

What has demand been like?
The demand is very high, especially since the article on (read it here). A lot of people are returning to us buying more masks for their loved ones. We’re getting really nice messages complimenting the quality of our masks, and we’re working long days so these comments really motivate us to continue working, even though we’re really tired. We are doing our best to meet the demand and feel lucky that our customers are very understanding.

How has making masks affected your business?
It’s amazing how making these face masks has given our company so much positive energy. We’re a small team and we’re working very hard to get the orders filled as quickly as we can. We’ve reorganised our studio to make our work run more smoothly. But I’m so grateful, too, that in this difficult time I have my mum with me, who is a professional seamstress. From the very beginning we’ve been working together—she couldn’t fly back home so it looks like it was meant to be!

How does it feel to be part of a movement of Irish makers doing something positive at this time?
We love our job. The fact that we can help other people by sewing face masks is giving us a lot of satisfaction. We are donating a percentage of each sale to Clarehaven, our local charity supporting women and children experiencing domestic abuse. It’s such a driving force for the whole operation.

What would you say to someone who doesn’t like the thought of wearing mask?
“I protect you, you protect me.” I started making masks because of this slogan, and I truly believe that a little sacrifice on our part can protect those who can’t handle the virus.

Moon Mood restock face masks on their website twice a week. Keep an eye on their Instagram for updates and shop the masks here.

Irish Linen House

Irish Linen House is a family-run brand creating tableware from sustainable Irish linen. The elegant designs are inspired by Ireland’s natural beauty, Celtic art and mythology. Irish Linen House was founded by Greg and Mary Whelan, and their daughter Marie-Claire looks after brand and marketing for the business. Here, she explains how the business adapted to meet the demand for sustainable, antibacterial masks:

Marie-Claire, how has the crisis affected your main business?

On 13th March, we had to close our doors due to Covid-19. This would have been the start of our busiest season kicking off with St. Patrick’s Day. We are located just beside the Jameson Distillery in Smithfield, so we normally have a high footfall of tourists. We also rely on our wholesale business as we sell into various retail outlets such as Arnotts, Kilkenny Nassau Street and Trinity College Gift Shop, all of whom had to close their doors as well. In January of this year, we had just launched a new rebrand in which we had invested, so we were very worried about the effects Covid-19 would have on our business, and we were devastated closing our doors. 

How did your face masks come about?

Within a couple of weeks of closing, we noticed the demand for face masks due to the shortage. A friend of ours is a pharmacist and asked us to make masks from our linen for herself and her staff and the feedback on them was really positive. Linen is an incredible fabric with amazing properties. It is the strongest of all natural fibres, it is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-allergenic making it suitable for sensitive skin. The fabric naturally regulates body temperature, wicking away moisture from perspiration. The soft texture ensures it is breathable and gentle on the skin. The masks can be washed and reused as linen gets better with age and softer with each wash. 

We felt that we could do something to help, and we were happy to keep busy, so we initially started with producing a batch of masks for donations to hospitals and frontline workers, as well as friends and family but it quickly grew from there. We didn’t anticipate that so many people would want to buy them but there was a huge demand. 

What did it take for you to get set up to make face masks?

We thought about how we could quickly adapt our business to produce them in larger quantities but it was very important for us to maintain our standards of producing high quality products, and continuing to deliver excellent customer service. Greg has a background in fashion and garment design so his knowledge was really vital and definitely helped us to adapt as quickly as we needed to in order to meet the demand. We were able to upscale our production, but we also had to consider new packaging, distribution methods, updating our website to reflect the new product as well as marketing. It has been challenging to adapt so quickly as we are still a small business and are operating as a small team, but we are doing our best to meet the demand. 

What has demand been like?

We have been overwhelmed! On 15th May, the Government made a recommendation on wearing face coverings in certain circumstances (on public transport and in enclosed indoor public areas), which has definitely increased the demand. We are selling mostly to customers in Ireland, but we have also had orders from the UK, Germany, France, the USA and Australia. Our customers have been happy to support a local business, especially the fact that it is a quality Irish linen product and handmade in Dublin. We have been and continue to be humbled by the support locally and further afield. It has been a challenge to adapt, but we are grateful that we are able to sustain our business through this crisis, while also being in a position to make donations weekly to frontline workers, and local charities and businesses in our area.

How has making masks affected your business?

Our tableware is a niche product, but so many people who have purchased our masks and who might not have been aware of the amazing properties of linen, have now had the opportunity to experience our linen and the quality of our product. We used to sell most of our products internationally and to tourists. However, due to the demand for face masks, we have definitely been able to grow our customer base in Ireland. We hope that in the future, when this pandemic is hopefully behind us, these customers will return again to buy our linen products. 

What is next for your business?

The retail stores we sell to remain closed, and our shop is now closed too. We are not yet sure when we will reopen to tourists again, or when travel will resume as normal. For now, we are focusing on producing our linen masks. The events in recent weeks have definitely shifted our thinking, we are putting more focus on our online business, and also thinking about how we can continue to evolve our product range. 

How does it feel to be part of a movement of Irish makers doing something positive at this time?

It has been incredible to see so many brands and designers innovate and adapt to do what they can to help, and to sustain their businesses. The support and generosity from the people towards local and Irish businesses has been amazing. It makes us very proud to be Irish. 

What would you say to someone who doesn’t like the thought of wearing a mask?

Wearing a mask is very new to our culture, but we would say that by wearing a mask to  protect ourselves, we are protecting each other. It is a visual representation that you are taking care. 

Irish Linen House face masks are restocked online regularly. Keep an eye on Instagram for updates, and shop the masks here.

Read next: Where to buy reusable, Irish-made face masks