Kiwi fashion designer sells 100,000 face masks with profits recycled into charitable gifts

Annah Stretton workroom
Annah Stretton has developed a line of reusable face masks which she sells and gives to charities. Photo credit: SuppliedAnnahStretton.

Kiwi fashion designer and philanthropist Annah Stretton has turned her hand to making face masks, from which the profits are recycled into charitable gifts.

To help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community, in addition to hand hygiene and distancing, the Government recommends that face masks or coverings are worn. Under alert level 3, people in Auckland should wear masks when outside of their bubble and on public transport.  Under alert level 2, masks are encouraged whenever social distancing isn't possible.

Having sold close to 100,000 reusable face masks, Stretton, who founded Stretton Group, said it's not a money-making venture. 

"Profits are repurposed into the mask production and infrastructure and enable us to gift masks to charities (or sell at a considerably reduced price), and the more vulnerable," she said.

The masks, which aren't medical or surgical grade, are designed to be washed and reworn.    Available in a range of patterns and colours, Stretton is passionate about making sustainable face masks part of everyday wear.  

"COVID has unfortunately become our new normal and masks have been recommended for us all to have on hand, just in case," she added.

There's currently up to an 18 working day wait, which Stretton said is due to demand and supply pressures around elastic manufacture and delivery delays. Many people weren't wearing masks, but wanted the comfort of having them at hand.

"This is not a two-week thing: this is possibly the way we will now all have to live moving forward," she added.

Ministry of Health face guidelines suggest reusable fabric masks or single-use disposable masks. Temporary face coverings, such as a scarf or bandana can also be used. 

Those who don't have spare cash could get one free through their local community group, or make their own.

As various types and grades of disposable and reusable face masks are available, shoppers are encouraged to compare prices, considering their needs along with the cost per wear.   

Ministry of Health face mask safety guidelines are available here.