Shop local: Dalston resident creates local network of sustainable mask-makers

Pucker co-founder Cathy Van Hear. Picture: Pucker

Pucker co-founder Cathy Van Hear. Picture: Pucker - Credit: Pucker

A remote face mask production network set up by a Dalston resident and her friends during the first coronavirus lockdown has now grown into a thriving social enterprise.

Meet Pucker mask-maker Frances Hewitt from Hackney. She worked in fashion until she becoming unemployed due to the pandemic.

Meet Pucker mask-maker Frances Hewitt from Hackney. She worked in fashion until she becoming unemployed due to the pandemic. She says she is glad to be using her sewing skills to help a social enterprise like Pucker. Picture: Pucker - Credit: Pucker

Pucker is a sustainable social enterprise providing the living wage for all its makers and donating 25 per cent of its profits to charity.

Co-founder Cathy Van Hear came up with the idea for Pucker after volunteering for an organisation making NHS scrubs while on furlough.

READ MORE: There With You: Hackney Wick neighbours sew scrubs for NHS staff during the coronavirus outbreak

She told the Gazette about running her new business out of her Dalston living room: “It’s now my (full-time) job. It has been quite a strange year but I’m just rolling with it.”

Meet Pucker maker Hannah Cooper. Picture: Pucker

Meet Pucker maker Hannah Cooper. Picture: Pucker - Credit: Pucker

Cathy wanted to offer a well-made, reusable alternative to disposable masks while creating employment opportunities for local people, and she is proud that Pucker pays all its mask makers a living wage.


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“If you are going to produce something it needs to have quality and longevity,” she said. “Being a maker myself and not being paid wonderfully all the time, it was really important to me that the people who make the masks are properly paid and respected.”

READ MORE: Shop Local: Campaign to help residents shop local launched by Hackney Council

She says most of the employees are freelancers, usually involved in other avenues of work which have been impacted or restricted by the pandemic, such as Savile Row tailors, puppeteers and theatre costume creators.

The Brecon Beacon mask. Picture: Pucker

The Brecon Beacon mask. Picture: Pucker - Credit: Pucker

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The makers’ other ventures are featured on Pucker’s Instagram regularly.

Each maker does their part in the mask production line from home; some do the cutting, others prepare the mask components and the rest sew.

“There was lots of experimentation in the early months,” Cathy said.

“It has been really interesting trying to make it work for everybody.”

A Pucker mask from it's Staycation collection called The Bournemouth Beach. Picture: Pucker

A Pucker mask from it's Staycation collection called The Bournemouth Beach. Picture: Pucker - Credit: Pucker

READ MORE: Flag raised over Hackney Town Hall for Living London Wage businesses

The masks come in 12 colours, have an adjustable nose and ears and are replenished based on the number of orders so as to not generate “too much stuff in the world”.

Cathy added: “They are quite colourful, fun and all have playful names.

“I think we need a bit of levity at the moment.

Pucker mask the Durdle Door. Picture: Pucker

Pucker mask the Durdle Door. Picture: Pucker - Credit: Pucker

“We did a collection recently called the staycation collection and they are all named after places people went on holiday in the UK in the summer because they couldn’t go abroad.

“So there’s the Durdle Door and the Brecon Beacon.”

READ MORE: Shop Local: Hoxton artists found new ways to make and sell art during the coronavirus lockdown

Cathy also felt it was important to give back to the community during this time, so Pucker gives 25pc of its profits to charities like Mind, Refuge and Crisis.

The Blazer mask from Pucker. Picture: Pucker

The Blazer mask from Pucker. Picture: Pucker - Credit: Pucker

Since launching in June, it has donated £3,695 to the three charities Pucker’s founders feel are ongoing lifelines for people during the pandemic.

For more information or to order a mask click here

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