How a Dubai face mask maker turned job loss into opportunity

An Indian artist's mask-making business in Dubai gave her new focus and an income

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When Tripti Purewal lost her job in May and fell into despair, her friends urged her to find a creative outlet.

They knew she found solace in art. While she had no plans to leave Dubai, her home of 16 years, uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic loomed.

“Nothing was certain. But they said: ‘You keep going, you get creative’,” said Ms Purewal, 42, a former production manager from Ambala, India.

“Covid has caused a lot of depression and loneliness in people. I felt I was slipping into a very dark zone and I had three friends of mine who told me, ‘Tripti, you’re creative, why don’t you start something of your own?’”

Even though I may not know the person, I'm putting a lot of love into every piece

Ms Purewal has sewed since the age of four. Her wardrobe is filled with the clothes she has tailored, and the walls of her home are covered with abstract paintings by her father and Indian miniatures she made during her masters in art.

So when her friends asked for masks, she threaded the needle of her sewing machine and got to work, creating bright creations ranging from cottage florals to camouflage and masks with stylised names in Hindi and English.

A few days later, a stranger in a lift complimented the mask she wore and placed an order on the spot.

Ms Purewal made 250 masks in the first 40 days, with requests coming by word of mouth and through social media.

Masks are mandatory in public in the UAE and as people adjust to the pandemic, a growing number are turning to layered cloth masks, as recommended by the World Health Organisation, to avoid excess waste and to protect themselves with style.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , July 25 – 2020 :- Tripti Purewal from India making face mask at her home in Dubai. She is a designer and lost her job few months back and went into depression. After motivated by her friends she is now making 3 layered face mask 100% cotton fabric, breathable, absorbent, hand washable, two way wearable with different colour options. Price starts from 25 AED to 40 AED. Her Instagram account is @artistandcreations  (Pawan Singh / The National) For News/Online/Instagram. Story by Anna
Tripti Purewal's three layer masks. Pawan Singh / The National

Ms Purewal plans to make masks as long as there is a need.

“Literally I have no life since the 16th of June,” she said. “I’ve just been making masks.”

Each three layer mask takes 30 to 40 minutes to sew and has a layer of Indian cotton and a layer of polyester blend, as recommended by the WHO.

“Even though I may not know the person, I’m putting a lot of love into every piece,” she said.

“With the last job, I didn’t have anything creative, it was more production and quality checking. I had actually started to feel that I’m losing touch with my creative side.”

The experience has reignited her desire to pursue a PhD in art.

Ms Purewal hopes her story will inspire others going through difficult times.

“I don’t know what situation others are in. But the way I live my life is, every day I wake up is a new day for me. I don’t carry anything negative from the previous day to the next. So I will not waste a day thinking about what will happen tomorrow because I haven’t seen tomorrow yet.”

Her masks cost Dh25 to Dh30 and can be ordered through her Instagram account @artistandcreations.