From Madiba Shirts to Masks – Keeping Business Alive During COVID-19

6th August 2020 By: Creamer Media Reporter

From Madiba Shirts to Masks – Keeping Business Alive During COVID-19

Financial experts have warned that the local economy will be heavily impacted by the long-term effects of COVID-19. So, how are businesses adapting to meet these unprecedented challenges?

Adapt to survive

Globally and locally, companies are finding ways to continue with business, albeit not ‘as usual’, while also rising to meet to meet the unique needs and challenges brought about by the pandemic. With the ban on alcohol negatively affecting various providers, some distilleries have pivoted to fulfil a more urgent requirement: hand sanitizer. In other examples of industries pivoting to meet more pressing concerns, there are reports of auto manufacturers adapting to provide much needed ventilators, and even small-scale businesses like independent grocery stores halting normal services to deliver food to frontline workers. 

Masks for Africa

One celebrated South African establishment, Lontana Apparel, have positioned themselves as key players both in business continuity and community enrichment during these trying times. Best known for manufacturing the popular ‘Madiba Shirt’, Lontana utilised the skills of their workers and manufacturing capabilities to provide non-medical personal protective equipment (PPE) masks to essential workers throughout South Africa, and to the non-profit sector. 

Wearing masks when in public has been declared mandatory for all South Africans by President Ramaphosa, and cloth masks are considered one of the most effective means of preventing the virus from spreading. In the early days of the national lockdown, Lontana recognised this need and galvanised their ‘ecosystem’ of suppliers and stakeholders to respond to some of our country’s most pressing needs, not only by positioning themselves as a major supplier of PPE, but also by empowering workers and ensuring the security of jobs. In answer to the apparel industry being brought to its knees as well-known chains were forced to cancel orders and factories were facing permanent closure, Lontana Apparel saw an opportunity to retain their workforce and provide an essential service. 

Lontana, in accordance with government gazette guidelines, have produced over five million masks, to date. Their quality disposable and reusable mask options are so in demand, that a night shift has been employed to ensure they continue to meet customer needs. The level 2 B-BEE suppliers have further contributed to community enrichment by empowering 20 external CMT (cut, make, trim) manufacturers, providing over 1000 people with work, and employing 60 factory workers. Where other businesses have unfortunately had to close, Lontana has made the best of a dire situation.

“We have experienced machinists, used to making high quality shirts to very exact specifications so I had every faith their ability to rise to the challenge. South Arica has an enormous amount of skilled resources currently unemployed and willing to work. By local businesses seeing the benefit of supporting local apparel manufacturers we could start seeing the rebirth of a once thriving industry in South Africa again,” concludes Dylan Rothschild, Managing Partner for Lontana.