Maskateers is a new business entity borne of adversity in which a Melbourne entrepreneur has turned his sewing talents from couture to protective accessories.
Adrian J Wise has been a dressmaker for close to 40 years and worked all over the world.
“You name it I’ve made it!” says Wise. “I’ve done dressmaking from bridal to evening to costume – a lot of costume work actually. I’ve done cruise ships internationally, working in the wardrobe department…but at the moment, obviously, all my work has dried up.”
With no functions, events, productions, or promotions happening, there is nothing for Wise to sew.
“I know a lot of people in New York – as in Broadway. I know a lot of people in Vegas because I’ve done shows there… but everybody’s shut down.”
Wise decided he’d just settle in and start making his winter wardrobe.
In a casual conversation one day, a friend who works for Swarovski bemoaned to Wise about needing to wear a mask in store. Wise offered to make the friend a black mask, which would meet the dress code but look more fashionable.
His friend added a few black Swarovski stones.
“And it just snowballed!” says Wise. “People saw his and said ‘Oh My God, they’re fantastic! Where do I get one? How much are they?”
From there Wise started making masks for family and friends, using up whatever suitable materials he had in his workshop. At first he simply gave the masks away, but once he’d used up all his fabric and needed to buy more, he began charging for the masks.
Wise found the original pattern online and has modified it several times. There is no definitive industry standard that he could find.
“But I do have a disclaimer on my page to say these are not surgical masks, they are not 100% protective.”
Surgical masks are single-use and best reserved for frontline people. Wise’s masks are machine washable (although those with adornment might be best hand-washed) and can be used repeatedly. He also recommends spraying with an anti-bacterial between washes.
The masks have three layers: a cotton face; a thin polyester interfacing that acts as a filter; then a poly-cotton lining.
“These are good quality craft fabrics and they’re very well constructed,” says Wise.
“I’ve had nurses, hospitals, vets contact me all wanting stock. They’ve looked at my research and they’re happy with what I’m producing and I’m happy to produce it for them.”
The masks come in a variety of sizes and patterns, and Wise has even included instructions for making them on his Facebook page. Recently, he conducted a Facebook Live mask-making workshop and there may be more in the future.
Maskateers, which is what Wise has dubbed his new mask-making business, is a masterclass in pivoting. Wise has managed to repurpose his tools and skills to create a thriving business that now employs additional workers.
“I’m feeling really good. I’m doing 16hr, 18hr days…”
It’s hard work and there’s a huge backlog of orders, but Wise is really enjoying it.
“I’m finding it really rewarding. I’m motivated to get this done – and not just for me but it’s for other people. That was my goal in the beginning, and that’s my goal now.”