Photo supplied by Ballo.
Photo supplied by Ballo.
  • South African sunglass manufacturing company Ballo has pivoted to making fashionable face masks, as it tries to stay afloat amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • “We’ve made about 500 up to now but are just gonna keep making…” says founder Alistair Barnes.
  • Ballo’s fashion masks are in no way claiming to be able to be able to prevent you from being infected.
  • Like other simple face masks, they serve as a reminder not to touch your face, just with a touch of fashion.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za. 

Like many other smaller companies, Cape Town sunglass and designer brand Ballo is facing a crisis as revenue dries up amid the novel coronavirus disaster.

So it is changing gears.

Ballo-branded sunglasses are sold from London and New York, and have caught buyers' attention by creating sunglasses, clothes, hat hangers, and even pots from recycled materials.

Photo supplied by Ballo.
Photo supplied by Ballo.

But it can not survive while not making any money.

Founder Alistair Barnes says Ballo can only afford to pay one month of rent and wages before it will have to shut down completely.

As a last throw of the dice, the company has now switched gears from making sunglasses out discarded cork and wood, to making fashionable face masks from discarded pieces of material.

“We’ve made about 500 up to now but are just gonna keep making…” says Barnes. “Covid-19 and the travel ban has meant that we are shutting stores and our workshop. Cutting off revenue to the business and our 10 employees.” 

Photo supplied by Ballo.
Photo supplied by Ballo.

Ballo’s fashion masks are in no way claiming to be able to be able to prevent viral infection. The masks are not filtered and are not surgical grade, and will not prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2.

But, like other masks, they can help those infected to be less likely to spread the disease, and may help remind wearers to not touch their faces.

“We have designed and made masks to fulfil the public need and try to ensure we can 1. Pay staff salaries 2. Pay rent and 3. have jobs to come back to when it’s done and because none of the other masks had vibe,” the company says.

The masks feature an elastic-over-ear design with two layers of fabric, one layer of white cotton inside, and one layer with a bit more vibe on the outside.  

Photo supplied by Ballo.
Photo supplied by Ballo.

Much like simple face masks, they serve as a reminder not to touch your face and curb you from coughing and sneezing onto others. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends wearing simple masks when you are sick, to reduce the risk of contaminating others. Wearing masks when sick is a common courtesy in countries like Japan and China.

A mask price lock-down. 

Masks have been in hot demand in South Africa as Covid-19 concerns grow, with pharmacies reporting an increase in sales and online sales running hot. Simply masks can retail for as little as R4 each, while others are selling for R150, depending on the quality, if you can find them.

With increased demand some retailers have been accused of price gouging, which has led the government to lock increasing the costs of coronavirus-linked products like masks, gloves, sanitiser, toilet paper and canned food, reports Fin24.

Retailers are not allowed to hike their profit margins on these products to above the average mark-ups during the three months to 1 March 2020.

Masks that would usually retail for as little as R4 being sold for R20 in stores.

Ballo’s masks cost R150 per unit

Photo supplied by Ballo.
Photo supplied by Ballo.

The masks are handmade in Woodstock, Cape Town, where Barnes says the company has implemented strict cleaning procedures, in a warehouse now closed to the public.

It is recommended that you wash your fabric face mask before first use, and you are advised to wear a clean, washed fabric mask every time.

Courier times is normally one to three days, with collection options available in Cape Town.

Order them here

For more information direct from the source, see also:

the NICD hotline for Covid-19 is: 0800-029-999.

the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD)

the latest statements issued by the national government

the Twitter stream of health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize

the World Health Organization's Covic-19 outbreak page 

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