Adapting to change in 2020: Barcelona toy designer pivots to create masks for all.
Amy Holden 18 August, 2020
Amy Holden. Crédito de la foto: Misché Hamilton @ By Mish Photgraphy
In January 2020, Amy Holden had no intention of starting a mask shop. The Australian toy designer, who’s lived in Barcelona for 18 years, was looking forward to launching her new yoga and mindfulness brand Soulmates as a follow up to the wildly successful Aqua Dragons hatch-and-grow pets, which she had created a few years previously. But when she travelled to a trade show in Hong Kong in early in the year, the mood among her local contacts was downbeat.
“They told me there was a new virus, and they were worried about how fast it was spreading,” Amy recalls, from her home in Barcelona, which is now also her office and headquarters of MasksForAll Shop.
When she returned to Barcelona in February, most people seemed oblivious to the approaching crisis. But Amy, inspired by the #MasksForAll movement on social media, started researching how to obtain masks for her family. There were almost none available – as concerns about a possible pandemic began to grow, global supplies of masks quickly sold out. Amy realised that if she wanted masks, she would have to have them manufactured herself.
Being the entrepreneurial type, Amy got in touch with her all her personal and professional contacts to bring the project to life. By mid-April she had chosen a design, sourced fabric and found a small family-run workshop to manufacture the masks. Friends inspired by the project, and newly out of work thanks to the lockdown, stepped in to create a website, design packaging and manage social media accounts to spread the word. The small team of mothers worked remotely while home-schooling their children, and MasksForAll Shop was born.
“It all happened so fast,” Amy says. “Before we knew it, we were getting orders, and when the government finally announced that children would be allowed to leave the house after 42 days of confinement, suddenly everyone in Barcelona realised they needed a mask!”
The MasksForAll mask reflects the values of the team behind it. Safety and quality were number one on the list – the clever two-layer design, with its curved shape, fits comfortably and securely. It’s washable and reusable which is crucial for avoiding environmental waste. The inner lining is made from a special technical fabric which has been certified for its filtration and anti-bacterial properties, and the mask is approved to the UNE 0065 specification for hygienic masks. As parents, the team wanted something that would appealing and comfortable for children, so the mask is available in five sizes and a wide range of designs – including one created from the rainbows of hope drawn by children during the lockdown in Barcelona.
MasksForAll Shop has a strong sense being part of the Barcelona community. As well as manufacturing the masks here, supporting local employment, they have donated masks to local organisations such as Casal dels Infants del Raval and Amics de la Gent Gran, which help people in need. “The whole point of mask-wearing as a public health measure, is that everyone needs to wear them,” Amy explains. “We understand that not everyone can afford to buy them, and we want to play our part to address that.”
Now that Barcelona and the rest of the world is adjusting to the new normal, it seems that masks are going to be an indispensable part of daily life for the foreseeable future. For this reason, MasksForAll Shop is evolving from an emergency response into an ongoing project, supplying quality reusable masks to pharmacies and schools, as well as directly to customers. Amy hopes that having an environmentally-friendly option available will mean that people don’t have to rely on disposable masks to keep their families safe.
“If you’d told me in January that I’d be running a project making reusable face masks in just a few months, I’d never have believed you,” says Amy. “It’s been a difficult year in many ways, but I’m proud that we’ve been able to contribute something useful to this crisis.”