Nelson College for Girls students Francesca Parlane, Catherine Courtney, Abigail Grubham and Hayley McKenzie are making affordable masks from reusable materials. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Students pivot to making masks for good


A group of Nelson students are set for a busy few weeks at the sewing machines in order to meet the high demand for their masks.

Noting a lack of reusable and affordable masks on the market, the Nelson College for Girls enterprise students quickly pivoted from their hair wear business in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Francesca Parlane, Catherine Courtney, Abigail Grubham, and Hayley McKenzie are now manufacturing masks from pre-loved fabrics.

Catherine says the goal was to help meet a universal need.

“We want to make it sustainable and help the community. Profit is not our number one goal, it’s nice but we want to be able to give back.”

The environmentally-conscious quartet say their initial ambition was to help reduce the global issue of fast fashion.

Beginning by creating repurposed hair accessories, the global pandemic brought about a change in business.

Abigail says she was shocked to see prices of masks ranging from $25-$40. “We think that’s really important as teenagers to sell them at an affordable price where students can pay for it without having to save up.”

Selling their masks at just $3.99 for one $5.99 for two, their product proved popular.

“Within 48-hours we sold out about 40 masks, we couldn’t keep up,” Francesca says.

The girls have received order requests from as far as Kerikeri and Dunedin.

“Everyone needs a mask and, with incomes decreasing, no one wants to spend $30.”

While juggling a number of other commitments both in and outside the classroom, the girls say it can be hard to find time to all get together for sewing sessions.

“We will do a mass production in the holidays.” They say it takes about 5-10 minutes to cut and sew a mask. “We have a good system.”

The girls say they are also still on the hunt for pre-loved fabrics and anyone willing to donate can contact them at [email protected]

You can also visit their Instagram page.