Protective face masks tend to hide ones identity and facial features, but in Tamil Nadu masks themselves are having a face of their own. Mask wearers are now sporting printed masks of their favorite heroes such as Rajinikanth, Vijay, Ajith and Surya. This trend has caught up over the last few days after textile exporters in the state’s knitwear and textile export hub Tiruppur decided to give masks a new face.
With protective face masks becoming an inseparable accessory since the start of the pan-India lockdown in late March, textile manufacturers and exporters from Tamil Nadu’s Tirupur have started making cloth masks. While the mainstay of the textile industry is export-quality garments, the lockdown has given rise to more makers of cloth masks.
“We have been in the garments export business for about 24 years, but this during this lockdown with limited staff we started making cloth masks to cater to the rising demand. For about 45 days now we’ve been making PPE and masks. We initially supplied it to a few government staff and later on we turned it into a business opportunity” Chandrakumar, CEO Sentinel clothing told .
With sales and export of garments having nearly dried up during the lockdown, the garment industries have been churning out masks and PPEs in a few thousands every day, with the help of limited staff who are turning up for work. The same equipment that are used for garment manufacturing are now being re-assigned to make masks.
“We were initially making masks with zodiac signs printed on them and also 7-color sets for a week, but what really was a hit among the masses was the masks with actors faces on them. Right from masks with prints of evergreen comedian Vadivelu to the action heroes, the demand soared over the last week as we were the only ones experimenting with this. While the plain masks cost 10.Rs apiece the printed ones cost 15, but people prefer the fashionable ones” Chandrakumar added.
In recent times the orders for customized masks have piled up from various corporates, schools and even political parties. Suppliers in Tirupur have received orders from the AIADMK and Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam, both of whom chose to have their party logo and flag printed on the masks.
While their factory has the capacity to make about 50,000 masks a day, Chadrakumar’s factory makes only about 5000 due to the less availability of workers. However, he feels that the high demand for masks would last for at least 3 months from now. Over 30 textile units in Tiruppur alone are involved in making masks using the cloth materials.
With the increasing Covid-19 cases in India and the WHO reports that mention about the virus being here to stay, masks are likely to play a greater role in coming times- that of a fashion accessory and a personal statement.