Sarah Notsi, a designer from Sharpeville in the south of Joburg, is the woman behind the face masks touted by Gauteng Premier, David Makhura.
The cloth masks made from a variety of African Ankara fabrics appeared on television in the hands of the premier. This comes after Health Minister Zweli Mkize recommended widespread use of cloth masks.
Sarah had already designed and was promoting her masks on social media and says it was the Gauteng MEC of health, Bandile Mabuza, who upon seeing the photos of Sarah’s cloth masks, wanted some for his staff.
Before Covid-19 struck South Africa, Sarah was incredibly busy with her fashion business, House of Sarah, but when lockdown hit, everything had to stop and she had to think of another plan to continue.
“That's when I thought of cloth masks and also realising that the amount of fabric I have from through the years would come in handy for the masks," she says.
When it was time to work from home Sarah started testing mask patterns and making samples.
“At the end of the day I ended up with three different designs,” she says. “I also had to do material tests by finding the suitable cloths that are breathable and protective from the virus, dust and people that suffer from sinuses.”
To be compliant with the suggestion by the minister of health, Sarah says her masks are made with three layers with the first layer being the Ankara cloth and nylon material for durability, and lined with the two layers of cotton material so that they are breathable as well as help prevent spreading the virus.
Sarah's fashion business, which specialises in making uniforms, wedding dresses and evening wear, because it was not categorised as an essential service, but having thought ahead, she took some supplies to be able to work from home.
“With no income or customers, it is very stressful as lockdown has brought an isolation to us due to social distances. Lucky enough I taught my sisters, kids and husband how to sew and I've been working with them on the mask project, which is a blessing [sic],” says Sarah.
Before she had to close shop, Sarah had adopted learners with special needs from Nkwame Nkruma Community College to teach them sewing as part of the Fashion Through Waste project.
“We turned old denim jeans into school backpacks to sell them to raise funds to buy equipment such as sewing machines for them (the learners),” she says.
Sarah says she hasn't been able to pay rent and salaries due to this lockdown.
But having her mask show up on national television has ignited hope, not only for her and the future of her business but for her community as well.
“The impact has been amazing both on my business and also people from my home town of Sharpeville,” she says.
"I’m hoping to get big orders from the government and private companies so that I can be able to share the workload with my community just to bring hope and change in their lives.”
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All Images supplied by Sarah Notsi
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