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Garden City big ladies discover face mask fashion for COVID-19

A fashion trend that may sweep across Port Harcourt and other big cities seems to emerge as top ladies gear up for new wears and facemasks that would hit and define the fashion world any moment from now.

Coronavirus or COVID-19 hit the world hard since January 2020 with morbid fear of death. It also came with a crackdown on businesses and the way of life of human, but the image of facemasks helped to make the virus a dreaded proposition. Many seemed not to like the fact that they would hide behind facemasks for any reason.

Images of very important dignitaries especially presidents and leaders of countries around the world wearing masks proved that no man (or woman) was above the virus or the reality of hiding behind masks, looking like Nigeria’s Lagbaja the singer (Bisade Ologunde).

It was believed at the beginning that the mask would be put on at few moments of exposure or when near suspicious sources, but as researchers begin to suspect to point at likelihood of the virus becoming airborne, fears grew rife and need for masks became more real. The prospect of staying behind the mask most times outdoor began to down on human.

At a point, many began to think that masks, with all its dread and ugliness, were mostly for men. It was believed that the ugly-looking mask would remain a burden mostly for men because they were believed to be the ones in the frontline of actions related to the infection. It was also believed that it is only women in the medical line who should regard facemasks important only as personal protection equipment (PPE) issue.

Now, most countries are issuing orders, making the facemask a compulsory dress accessory when outdoor or to be allowed to pass through their states. In Nigeria, some states such as Cross River and Abia have decreed the facemask is a compulsory public dress accessory.

Ladies in Port Harcourt, ever conscious of their looks and fashion status, have gone to the drawing board to create facemasks that match different occasions.

Two big industrial sewing centres in Port Harcourt, Showers Nigeria Limited in Woji (top member of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria), and Jovitapatricks Nigeria Limited in D-Line, top member of the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (PHCCIMA), have come up with designs to win support especially from the ladies.

At the moment, each of the makers has thousands of orders to meet especially as the organized private sector (OPS) has convinced the FG to look inwards in the supply of face mask to fill import gaps.

Jovita Ada Iroemeh, the CEO of Jovitapatricks Limited, pioneer coordinator of NAWORG, pioneer coordinator of south-south/south east of NAWORG and national president of the Association Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners, said Nigeria has reached facemask level.

She told BDSUNDAY exclusively; “We don’t have to wait until we get to that stage to adopt facemasks as a protection. There is pandemic in Nigeria despite the low numbers. This is because we have not tested enough. I am an expert in Sociology of Medicine and I can see that we are getting there fast. People are not maintaining social distance. I call it a joke yet because we are not doing anything. I have never been this scared in my life. When it starts raining here, it will be terrible.”

She went on: “Prevention is our best bet. We should not wait to get to Italy level. Turning the facemask into a fashion trend is the way to go. All you need is to get the grammage right. You know women, once this is started as a way of fashion, it will catch fire and women will not spread the virus. See the governor of Cross River State is modeling it.

“Port Harcourt people need facemask to reduce exposure to soot. Between the coronaviros and soot, there is need for facemasks especially for women. It is common knowledge that soot is an issue in Port Harcourt. If there is pandemic in the Garden City, it will be terrible because with soot already in the lungs, it will be hard to manage the virus.

“Everybody should wear mask, plus washing of hands. That is the way to go. Now, every dress people make, they make a facemask to go with it”.

The CEO of Showers Limited, Ekama Emilia Akpan, who was in the forefront for homemade facemasks, said it gives Nigerians the opportunity to adjust designs to suit local realities. She said the poor must be factored into the choice of masks we produce because disposable masks are only for the rich. And, fashion must be considered to get the buy-in of the upper class.

Akpan, immediate past national deputy president of MAN, and two-time chairman of MAN Rivers/Bayelsa chapter, said turning the facemasks into fashion streak would help make it popular and acceptable.

She said until a vaccine is found, the facemask would remain crucial. The only option is to make it acceptable to everybody. She took time to explain the various features considered in the making of facemasks such as filtration, softness around the neck, space for breathing, and reusability. She mentioned other things that would keep it free from germs and infection but said the cost of wear-and-drop (disposable) ones is high.

By what the latest designers in Port Harcourt are saying, if top ladies start to wear facemasks, other women in the society and men would easily buy into it as a fashion, and next, facemasks and designs would became the new fashion trend in town. You may feel free to call the Covid fashion, with mask to match.


Ignatius Chukwu

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