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ImaniLia Face Masks

Source: Courtesy of Imani Lia / ImaniLia/@brooklynlove704

Buy Black Friday is a MadameNoire series that highlights the products and services of Black women-owned businesses.

We’re living in some scary times. And while a lot of things feel out of our control right now, there are a few precautions we can take to protect our health and the health of our neighbors. The best and safest thing we can do is stay at home. But when you do have to go out for essentials like food and supplies, you can wear a mask to partially protect yourself from viruses and ensure that you’re not infecting anyone along the way.

If you’re going to cover up during this coronavirus outbreak, you might as well make it cute.

So let me introduce you to ImaniLia Designs, who is offering African Print, non-medical grade face masks.

We interviewed Imani about her designs and how they came to be. See what she had to say on the following pages.

You can get your face mask, in various prints, here.

ImaniLia Face Masks

Source: Courtesy of Imani Lia / ImaniLia/@brooklynlove704

What inspired you to make these masks?

I have to give credit to my friends and support system because I knew what was happening. I guess a few people were making masks. I was definitely getting information about the city looking for people to make masks. And my friends were like, ‘You need to make masks. This could be dope for you.’ It’s all these worries like—not to capitalize off of tragedy but at the same time, you can do this. You have a business, you should.

ImaniLia Face Masks

Source: Courtesy of Imani Lia / ImaniLia/@brooklynlove704

Then, one social media friend sent me a picture of someone who was doing African print masks in Ghana. She said, ‘I saw this and I thought of you.’ And I was like, ‘Oh wow.’ So it’s not only people who are close to me. It’s other people that believe in me too. So let me believe in myself and stop saying that there’s no way. So I had the fabric. I have tons of cool prints.

ImaniLia Face Masks

Source: Courtesy of Imani Lia / ImaniLia/@brooklynlove704

So, like I say social distance but make it fashion. You only need to go out once a week to go to the grocery store. But when you do, be on your nines.

ImaniLia Face Masks

Source: Courtesy of Imani Lia / ImaniLia

Were you surprised by how well people received the masks?

Flabber.gasted,  ok?! Shocked and appalled. There were people who were asking me to make them masks before I decided to do this and I wasn’t fully listening like, ‘Okay, whatever. I was expecting those four people to buy them. I thought a few family members maybe. But I didn’t expect it to be a thing.

ImaniLia Face Masks

Source: Courtesy of Imani Lia / ImaniLia

The first day, 10-15 orders. All these years I’ve been doing this and I’ve had my online store for over three years. I’ve never had something take off like this, out of necessity and out of people wanting to look good. Everybody don’t want to have that plain medical looking one on but they also want to be covered.

ImaniLia Face Masks

Source: Courtesy of Imani Lia / ImaniLia

I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘My husband works for MTA and they want something to wear.’ My cousin is a nurse so I gave her a coupon code for her nurse friends because they’re scarce. They want to look good too but they’re needing something that is reusable. And it’s better than what’s being offered at the hospitals right now.

ImaniLia Face Masks

Source: Courtesy of Imani Lia / ImaniLia

People in the medical field

They can. In the description, it says nonmedical grade because I’m not certified by anybody to say it’s medical grade. But it is known that if its cotton, it can protect you up to 70 percent from any kind of virus. And if you’re sick, it can protect people from what you might have, whether it be a cold, a flu whatever. If you’re not sick and somebody sneezes of whatever in your vicinity, then it protects you from going straight into your nose or mouth. And then you take if off when you get home. You can spray it with Lysol and do it again tomorrow. You can throw it in the wash right away, however you choose to clean it. It’s better than nothing is what I’ll say.

ImaniLia Face Masks

Source: Courtesy of Imani Lia / ImaniLia

Safety

I work out of my home studio, so I wash my hands. I cut all the fabric. The fabric is clean. In a mailer, they’re not in plastic because that’s just creating more plastic waste. Feel free to Lysol it down or wash it once you get it. When you buy clothes from the store, do you wash them before you get them? Some people do, some people don’t. It’s up to your discretion but I’m telling you I’m going through measures to make sure they’re clean.

ImaniLia Face Masks

Source: Courtesy of Imani Lia / ImaniLia

I had to go out and buy elastic but everything else is materials I had. One because I had materials here. Two because everything is closed. Three because I’m not in the position to go out and buy new fabric for something I wasn’t sure people were going to buy. I have enough material for x amount. Get it before it’s gone. When it’s gone, I don’t have it anymore.

ImaniLia Face Masks

Source: Courtesy of Imani Lia / ImaniLia

I know people told you that you could charge more for the mask. How did you decide to stick to the original price point of $8?

I have a family member whose in marketing and advertising and I’ll often times go to my designer friends or my family for advice. And I almost always undervalue myself, my skill when it comes to the price range so I’m always asking someone for another opinion. She was like, ‘These are great. They’re fashionable. You could sell it easy for more.’ And I considered it. But I came to the price by talking to a friend of mine in the industry. We came to the price because we want them to be affordable and as accessible as I can.

Would it be great if I had the financial capacity to donate all of these masks and not possibly make a profit off of them? Absolutely that would be great. I’m not in that financial situation. I have to do what I have to do to support my family at this time.

Then my friend called me like, ‘Why are you changing the price? I thought we were doing this for this reason?’ In the end, I was like I don’t feel good enough about this so I decided to leave it where it’s at. And honestly, I’ve been doing well where it is. I’m thankful. God is good because I’m not working right now. I’m a designer but I’m also an art educator. Schools are closed. I’m not at work so I’ve been blessed. Hopefully, I’ve been a blessing to people who needed this and I’ve been blessed by it.

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