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Finnish fashion firms jump into face mask market

A number of clothing brands have already begun production, while others are still in the research phase.

Rockserin pääsuunnittelija Lilli Norio esittelee kangasta, mistä aletaan tehdä kasvomaskeja myyntiin.
R-Collection's head of design, Lilli Norio. Image: Jarmo Nuotio / Yle

Clothing companies in Finland have begun designing and producing fabric face masks to help in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Kajaani-based Rockseri, known for its R-Collection brand, started producing fabric masks for both healthcare professionals and consumers early last week.

Lilli Norio, R-Collection’s head of design, told Yle that consumers may want face masks to contain refreshing details, and that masks do not necessarily have to be only available in the traditional white.

"Many Finnish brands have their own distinctive patterns," Norio said, adding that although the R-Collection is not as recognisable for its patterns as other brands, the label’s upcoming summer collection has several prints that are also intended to be used in masks made for consumers.

Norio said she now consistently considers face masks when designing R-Collection products.

"Masks made of anorak fabrics were the first to come to my mind, and we are researching how the fabric might be suitable for this purpose," Norio explained.

Anna-Kaisa Auvinen, CEO of Finnish Textile & Fashion, the central organisation for textile, clothing and fashion companies in Finland, speculated that if the use of masks becomes more common, then people may want some "personality".

"If a face mask is thought of as an accessory in some way, then the importance of brand and appearance will become greater," Auvinen said.

Rockseri are one of more than a dozen companies to have reported to Finnish Textile & Fashion their plans to begin face mask production.

One of Finland’s most iconic clothing brands, Marimekko, has also started to consider the possibility of producing face masks. Marimekko's communications informed Yle that although the company's products have not been manufactured or intended to be used as protective items, the company are now conducting research into whether the fabrics can be used for face masks.

"Better than nothing"

Finnish Textile & Fashion’s CEO Auvinen welcomed the production of masks by clothing companies, especially as there is a current need to meet demand.

Earlier this week, the head of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) Markku Tervahauta, recommended that people should begin wearing a mask in public, even if they are showing no coronavirus symptoms.

He justified his position on the grounds that asymptomatic carriers would protect others from further coronavirus infections.

However, Finland’s Health Ministry directly contradicted Tervahauta’s advice on Yle’s A-studio programme on Tuesday evening.

The difference of opinion between THL and the ministry reflects wider societal differences, both in expert circles and among consumers. Some people think the masks are useless or even harmful, while others think they reduce the spread of the disease.

"We can't promise that the mask would save us from the virus, but I think it's better than nothing," Olli Saastamoinen, R-Collection's development manager, told Yle.

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