The brand’s website, MASKulture, was unveiled earlier this week and featured a note from Waddell stating the intent of the brand was to express personal style while exercising caution in light of COVID-19.
“We’re proud to be producing masks that are made well, with the right materials to keep us safe, and fit our faces properly without discomfort. Masks that express our personal style, and bring a little joy to our lives and to the lives of others.
“Together, with these masks, we can show the world that we are taking precautions in a way that brings a little light to the world around us,” she wrote.
The masks offered vary between the signature and comfort selections. Signature masks, which the website indicates includes a non-woven filter and full coverage, are priced at $100. Comfort masks are said to be designed for longer wear with adjustable straps, and cost $75.
Following the launch, Waddell was harshly criticised on social media by persons questioning the prices of masks.
“Sarah Jane Waddell selling cloth masks for $100 is peak capitalism, preying on desperate citizens. Very poor taste,” wrote one Twitter user.
“Sarah Jane Waddell selling masks for $100 is the most criminal thing I’ve seen in a while,” said another.
One person wrote on Facebook, “It’s amazing how people make $95 tax-free profit on a so-called custom design mask. See an opportunity to make money when a serious situation is happening in the country. This is indeed capitalism at its best. Taking advantage of a dire situation. It shows how greed can be perpetuated with the best of intentions.”
Waddell has since responded in an Instagram post, stating the initiative was born out of the desire to create revenue for persons in her team of employees who may be in vulnerable situations due to COVID-19. She said while she is the face of the brand, production and sales have allowed for the employment of others such as a photographer, seamstresses, a website developer and others.
“My team is like my family. Many have been with me since the start three years ago. They rely on me to help them keep food on the table, and it really did change my life taking on a responsibility like that. Lemme tell you, month after month when you have people who count on you, it grows you up. When this happened, I kept telling myself that I was in a luckier position than most, but I needed to find a way to help them. While it might just be my face on the website that you see, it’s so many people beyond that.
“This is called a project because it represents a team of people trying to provide for their families during this. Between that and the amount of time and care and different hands that go into creating quality masks, individually cut and sized we just cannot compete with $15 for one,” she said.
She added that producing masks for free was not a sustainable option, and that emphasis was instead placed on the quality of what was produced. She said for each mask sold, one would be donated.
“I ask people to support the movement because how sustainable is it for my team if we make masks for free? Until we run out and that’s that? We need to be able to keep going… I wish I could donate a million masks to the world!!! But I don’t have a factory or that kind of support. We are but a handful of people who can’t produce high numbers…so the focus remains on quality and in donating what we sell instead of trying to make as many as we can,” she wrote.