Fashionista launches face mask business that employs others made jobless during pandemic

Ayla Bligh never expected to be among the unlucky to be laid off work during the pandemic, but she's used her last pay cheque to kick-start a new business, which is also helping other women out of work due to Covid-19.

By Mischo label face mask and scrunchie. Source: Supplied

The Aucklander has worked in the fashion industry for about eight years, most recently as an account manager for a textile firm.

She told 1 NEWS she got through the first lockdown unscathed, but in July she and another worker at the same firm got made redundant.

"At first I didn't see it coming, maybe I should have, but I've remained positive. I did quite well in accepting it."

Ms Bligh credited her family and former employer for support during the pandemic, but said others weren't so fortunate.

So, while she never intended to start her own business - especially seeing first-hand how difficult it is to make it in the fashion industry - Ms Bligh took the punt.

On August 19 she officially launched By Mischo - using $2000 from her last pay to kick-start the project.

By Mischo founder Ayla Bligh said the ethos behind the label was to offer a product which was both fun and fashionable. Source: Supplied

The idea came about after Ms Bligh made her own matching mask and scrunchie - something that fit her personal style and boosted morale in the unsettling time.

"It took the anxiety out of wearing a mask," she said.

"The ethos behind the label has been to offer a product which is both fun and fashionable, and we are helping to do this through selling accessories like hair scrunchies which match the masks - making wearing them a bit more lighthearted."

With such good feedback on the products, Ms Bligh boosted production and started selling them on Facebook group Chooice, formally called New Zealand Made Products. 

"The sales response was immediate and we had more than 50 orders in the first hour alone, with customers ordering four masks at the time and even had requests to send orders as far away as California and the United Kingdom."

Last night the business had sold over 500 units.

Among the five seamstresses there's a mum, a grandmother and a former pilot  - all of whom were made redundant or had reduced hours due to the pandemic.

"Like most people, I was shocked to hear on the news that 90 per cent of the 11,000 redundancies in New Zealand due to Covid affected women, so from the start I wanted By Mishco to be about empowering women who, like me, had lost their jobs," Ms Bligh said.

"Some of them worked as tailors for various labels and like me have found themselves out of work overnight. We are all grateful to be back producing something and earning an income again."

Ms Bligh also thanked New Zealanders for their overwhelming support in getting the venture off the ground.

"It's amazing," she said. "I was just hoping to make my money back.

"Kiwis love to buy local and our economy needs help at the moment."

Ms Bligh is considering options for the business post-pandemic, but she is also still looking for full-time work.