Africa-Press – Lesotho. Tailors and dressmakers say they resorted to mask production to survive harsh impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on business. Following the closure of borders and the national lockdown
which came with social distancing precautionary measures, the sewing industry has been faced with extreme financial challenges. The condition, however called
for massive innovation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as a new form of employment when markets closed for other business opportunities. For tailors,
this meant no more exportation of seshoeshoe dresses to South Africa (SA) or importation of fabric for dressmaking, leaving them with no option but production
of masks to generate income. Banning of social gatherings also imposed a serious setback to the industry, which has been dependent on sewing wedding dresses and school uniforms on normal trading conditions.
According to ‘Mateboho Khiba, tailoring has been a good industry, though like any other business, it had its seasons. “I have been sewing seshoeshoe all along and the challenges were getting normal.
However, with COVID-19 outbreak, production of masks enables us to have transport to and from work, which was going to be a problem had we been waiting for seshoeshoe
customers,” she noted, indicating that the new business wreaked havoc across the market, making the competition too tight to contest for. Khiba mentioned
that the demand of masks caused everyone to engage in business, thereby exempting attainable profits. “Only those who get tenders from big companies are earning
better from this new business,” she observed. Her appeal is that if the government would subsidize or buy for distribution to remote communities, they
may at least survive the socio-economic conditions at the forefront. Speaking to a youth, who has also joined in the business, Nadia Rahlao (12), says she sees the innovation as a life changing opportunity
to her as well as her entire family. Rahlao indicated that she and her older sister sell masks as vendors when her mother, Rosa Rahlao sews. In her analysis, life is much better now, and she personally found a way to fund her
personal basic needs such as clothes and accessories. “I like engaging in business and meeting my mother halfway financially. Closure of schools for me
meant no chance for making petty cash from snack selling, but now I found a resort. ” Rahlao explained. She said her biggest dream is to see the business
growing and supplying clothing companies for its sustainability. More concerns roused from other tailors, where ‘Maphakiso Mphaololi insisted that there is no profit as fabric is expensive.
She said that they can only make a few masks from a metre of cloth, to sell each for M5.00, “if we could supply in bulk numbers to reliable customers or sell at a
higher price, we may be able to cover other expenses aside from rent. For an essential goods provider, we would like to be reconsidered. The Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing
Public Relations Officer (PRO) Makalang Mokere advised that tailors should form associations as a channel to send their concerns to the ministry. He said that
the industry as it is, calls for competition where a few may win tenders from individual ministries when demand arises. “Pricing on the other hand goes with
regulations that require detailed marketing. It is also a process that goes through reviewing for certainty of the products’ worth. Tailors need to set their own standards and propose their concerns through associations,” Mokere said.