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Heritage workwear brand switches to face masks to ease shortage

PUBLISHED: 13:49 07 April 2020 | UPDATED: 18:31 07 April 2020

Yarmouth Stores factory manager Sharon Bowles making cloth face masks for care homes Picture: Beth Smith

Yarmouth Stores factory manager Sharon Bowles making cloth face masks for care homes Picture: Beth Smith

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A heritage brand whose utility-focused designs have caught the eye of fashionistas across the globe has switched to making protective face masks.

Managers at Yarmouth Stores are making reusable face masks on a volunteer basis to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and address the shortage Picture: Beth SmithManagers at Yarmouth Stores are making reusable face masks on a volunteer basis to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and address the shortage Picture: Beth Smith

Yarmouth Stores can boast seven generations of family ownership and a maritime-steeped history that has won it a special place in the town’s manufacturing tradition.

Keeping it trendy and Instagrammable, its Oilskins brand sees people sharing their looks and its ethos of hand-made quality and back-to-basics finishes, having revived the old 19th century logo and reinvented some of its traditional designs.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic production has been halted at its Southgates Road factory and all its staff furloughed.

But a handful of managers are testing their skills by making hundreds of face-masks for care home staff who are struggling to get hold of any.

Yarmouth Stores in Southgates Road. Production at its factory has stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic but managers have volunteered to re-open it and make face masks for local care homes Picture: Sophie MillerYarmouth Stores in Southgates Road. Production at its factory has stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic but managers have volunteered to re-open it and make face masks for local care homes Picture: Sophie Miller

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Fashion designer Sophie Miller said while the masks were not medical grade there was a shortage and the demand was out there.

The mother-of-two from Potter Heigham said factory manager Sharon Bowles and graduate assistant Beth Smith had dusted off their sewing skills to help the effort and had opened up the factory to do what they could.

So far they have cut out 240 cotton face-masks with elastic straps and have reached out to local contacts in the care industry.

The factory’s normal output would see a workforce of around 20 cutters and finishers producing protective and workwear garments for its Monument brand as well as making up designs for other companies.

Yarmouth Stores  has been making workwear for over 100 years and has found success with its Oilskins fashion label. Production has been suspended during the Covid-19 outbreak but managers have opened up the factory to make face mask Picture: Beth SmithYarmouth Stores has been making workwear for over 100 years and has found success with its Oilskins fashion label. Production has been suspended during the Covid-19 outbreak but managers have opened up the factory to make face mask Picture: Beth Smith

The Oilskins label is aimed at a trend-conscious customer and sells well online and in a handful of hand-picked boutiques including in Hong Kong and Japan.

Working on the double cotton cloth masks is a volunteer effort using surplus material that can be sold at cost price.

One care home has already put in a request for 70 items to help protect its residents and staff.

“We had the skills and we had the fabric so it was something we really wanted to do,” Mrs Miller added.

“They do not normally work on the machines, they are the management.

“But it’s more than just a job, all of us really care about what we do.”

Contact the company via its social media platforms Instagram @yarmouth_oilskins or via Facebook.


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