A kilt company has seen an “unbelievable” surge in demand for its tartan face masks after the First Minister was seen wearing one on a public visit on Friday.
Nicola Sturgeon wore one of the Slanj Kilts’ masks as she visited a branch of New Look in Edinburgh, seeing some of the social distancing measures they had put in place ahead of their reopening on Monday, June 29.
Later that day, she told followers on Twitter: “Had some people asking about this face covering. It is Slanj Kilts homeless tartan.
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“Part of the sale proceeds go to support Shelter Scotland,” she added.
The company’s general manager, Ross Lyall, called the public response to the First Minister’s tweet “unbelievable”.
“It’s been absolutely massive. Since the lockdown, we might get between five and 15 web orders per day. Yesterday, we got 4,500.
“It feels like we’re Boohoo or Asos or something,” he jokes, “I hope the weavers aren’t that busy!”
Ross estimates the masks have raised £8,000 for the homelessness charity, with more sales still to come.
Alison Watson Director of Shelter Scotland said: “We are delighting to see the FM wearing the Slanj Kilts tartan face mask.
“It is only because of the support of fundraisers like Slanj that we are able to provide the information, advice and representation that empowers people to keep their homes and access help with homelessness.
“I’d like to thank the FM and Slanj for their fantastic support,” she added.
Designing and producing the tartan face masks was the brainchild of one of Slanj Kilts’ owners and directors, Brian Halley. Along with his brother, Craig, the pair have run the company for 25 years.
“This is Brian’s baby,” explains Ross, “he started talking about face masks a month before lockdown, when people were just thinking about them.”
Ross said creating tartan face masks has been an important lifeline for the company, whose shops have been shut for three months.
“The wedding industry is really struggling, and it’s put a huge strain on the shops.
“But when people go on our site looking for face masks, they say: ‘Oh, they do t-shirts as well,’ or ‘Oh I need a sporran for Jimmy’s wedding’, so it helps the rest of the business too.”
He says he is currently working on plans to reopen the shops, which are based in Edinburgh and Glasgow, in a couple of weeks’ time.
“There have been definite worries,” he admits, “you know, we’re wondering how we’re going to operate now we’re going to be down to two people in the shop at one time. Normally we rely on big parties coming in to get fitted for events.”
“It’s not going to be easy, but we’ll manage it.”
Scottish government advice on wearing face coverings states: “When you enter enclosed spaces, where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people who are not members of your household, you should wear a face covering.
The advice cites examples like “entering shops or businesses; visits to a care home for the elderly; visits to adult hospitals as an outpatient; and GP surgeries or pharmacies” as places where it is not always possible to maintain a 2 metre distance from other people.
But, it says, “there is no evidence to suggest there might be a benefit outdoors from wearing a face covering unless in an unavoidable crowded situation.”
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