Since the start of Phase 2, things have kind of return to some sort of normalcy in that we’re finally allowed to dine at restaurants in small groups and visit retail stores. But one of the things that remind us that there’s an ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is that we still have to wear masks out.
It’s fine when you’re out and about with the mask on, but when you go to a restaurant and the food arrives, you usually face a small problem: Where do you keep your mask while you are eating?
Depending on the material and structure, not all masks can be tucked under the chin.
Human resources director Angela Lim, 58, says: “It feels unsanitary to put it on the table or dump it in your bag. If you put it on your lap, it may fall on the floor.”
Some restaurants, including Din Tai Fung and Tung Lok, provide diners with complimentary ziplock bags or small pouches to store their masks.
The issue of sustainability aside, not all food and beverage businesses can afford the additional costs. So, it is best to take along your own case or pouch.
Some retailers and independent makers have capitalised on the mask-wearing new normal by selling mask storage devices.
A search for mask storage on e-commerce sites like Lazada and Shopee turns up plenty of listings for plastic cases and fabric pouches in various designs. On Carousell, prices for mask storage devices range from $1 to $15.
Ms Linda Chew hand-sews and sells fabric mask pouches under the Carousell handle eternally sewn.
The 48-year-old housewife says: “I love beautiful fabrics and am blessed that I get to create pretty things with them.”
She got the idea when she saw pictures of mask pouches popping up on social media.
Seeing a need for them, since it is mandatory for people to wear masks when they leave home, she started peddling her creations on Carousell about a month ago.
Her pouches, which go for $8 to $15, come in a variety of designs – from delicate florals to more minimalist pieces in solid colours.
Made with the dimensions of masks in mind, she says the masks do not have to be folded when stored, which reduces the chances of droplets spreading.
Her pouches, which she describes as “pretty and functional”, are popular among working adults and mothers who buy them for their children.
She says: “Customers have given positive reviews and often come back to purchase more.”
On July 3, food delivery platform Deliveroo unveiled an exclusive collection of mask cases designed by local illustrator Tan Si Qi.
The compact cases, made of environment-friendly PP plastic, claim to be dust- and moisture-proof. They come in four designs printed with phrases such as “Chicken rice to meet you!” and “Steady lah! You’re on a sushi roll!”
The limited-edition cases – 270 were produced – have been fully redeemed. Customers could opt to receive them with a minimum order of $12 for delivery or pickup.
Local apparel brand Tracyeinny, which has a store at Junction 8 mall, also offers a variety of mask storage products. Prices range from $2 for a plastic box to $16.90 for a fabric pouch.
Owner Jeannie Pang, 40, who runs the label with her cousin, first found out about mask cases and pouches through her contacts in Hong Kong.
Sensing potential demand for the items, she ordered them from suppliers in Hong Kong to sell during the circuit breaker period. She eventually launched the items during phase one, which started on June 2, and estimates that she has sold more than 3,000 mask storage items.
“The mask pouches we sell are of good quality. We choose the fabric ourselves and the masks are hand-sewn in Hong Kong,” she says. “There is an inner lining made of cotton and a waterproof outer layer. They ensure the masks are kept dry.”
Ms Pang herself uses the pouches. “I have two children aged three and five. Kids can use three to four masks in a school day. The teachers tell us it’s important to separate clean and unclean masks, so I think it’s good to have a pouch.”
She says many of her customers who buy the pouches are also parents.
“I think the cute designs appeal to customers. We use adorable fabrics like those dotted with strawberries or bunnies. One of our designs with kittens has sold out.”
“It seems like masks are here to stay and mask pouches ensure hygiene,” she adds.
“Compared with storing masks in ziplock bags, a mask pouch is more sustainable and environment-friendly.”
This article was first published in The Straits Times.