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Masking the masses

29 May 2021

Tailor in Al Khuwayr stitches customised masks

What started as a community service has become an all-consuming engagement for an expat tailor in Al Khuwayr. Prabhakaran Puthiyaveettil, a tailor in Oman for 30 years, dedicated his time and efforts into stitching face masks to be donated among the needy during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. 

The initiative took off when a friend requested Puthiyaveettil to make a mask. “That was the starting point. Soon, I sewed around thousand masks and distributed these among low wage workers in Muttrah in the initial months of the pandemic last year through a charity that I am associated with,” he said. 

When Puthiyaveettil first came to Oman, he worked in Sohar for five years. He has been running a ladies’ tailoring shop in Muscat for the last 25 years. Earlier, he stitched only abayas but the slowdown in the economy has forced him to accept a wider variety of tailoring jobs. 

Evolving design

The first masks Puthiyaveettil made were double layered and of cotton which he distributed for free. The design has since evolved with the addition of one more layer of filter to improve the efficiency of the mask.

He uses washable spunbond polypropylene, a material that meets public health recommendations and widely used in the clothing and furniture industries. 

“Orders for masks started pouring in when my wife shared photos of the masks on social media. The word spread and there were bulk orders from companies. There was a time when my team stitched 500 masks a day. We delivered 1,000 to 8,000 masks per order,” Puthiyaveettil informed. 

Orders, however, have dropped significantly since. “I think demand fell because our masks are reusable. Also, the price of surgical disposable masks fell significantly. A box of 50 pieces would cost between RO5 and RO6. Now it’s just 800bz.”

With orders for masks drying up, business has slowed down again and Puthiyaveettil is struggling to meet the running expenses of his shop near Sagar Polyclinic. He owes rent for more than six months. 

 

Made to order

 

Not one to give up easily, Puthiyaveettil continues to stitch masks for individual customers looking for fancy designs. 

“I am extremely cautious and maintain hygiene during the making process. Once I complete stitching, I steam iron the masks, seal these in plastic pouches to ensure safety and cleanliness for the end user.” 

He claims he hasn’t received a single complain about the quality of the masks he’s made. 

Health experts currently advise double masking, which is wearing a surgical mask under a reusable mask to ensure safety.

(Text and photos by Syed Fasiuddin)

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