You may not be able to buy a new Volvo right now, but you can buy some face masks with the Swedish carmaker’s branding on it. Volvo Car Malaysia has teamed up with local children’s clothing label Three Little Ahmads and fabrics maker NanoTextile to introduce a new range of reusable antimicrobial face masks with floral batik designs.

The new masks, which are supposed to be more sustainable alternatives to disposable face masks, are aimed at supporting the livelihoods of local communities after facing unemployment and other adversities as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Volvo says the masks are ethically sourced and produced by single mothers, women in rural neighbourhoods and Giatmara vocational alumnae who have lost their jobs due to retail factory closures as a result of the government’s movement control order in March 2020. The crisis has affected these individuals so badly that some of them have had to pawn off their jewellery they received as dowries just to make ends meet.

The company adds that each of these people has been fairly compensated with every face mask produced, which has not only earned them a stable income but has even allowed them to repurchase all their jewellery from the pawnshop.

“This collaboration truly falls in line with Volvo’s core philosophy of “Omtanke”, which is a Swedish word and Volvos brand ethos that means “to care” and “to be considerate”,” said Volvo Car Malaysia marketing and PR director Akhtar Sulaiman. “We are honoured to lend a helping hand to our local communities and sustain their livelihoods, especially during these economically challenging and vulnerable times.

Volvo says the project is part of the brand’s global commitment to protect and improve the environment and wider society, with the disposal of single-use surgical masks – which could end up in landfills and oceans as nanoplastics – being one of the impending environmental concerns stemming from the pandemic.

Three Little Ahmads founder and designer Datin Azrene Ahmad said, “When we received the brief from Volvo Car Malaysia, we took a more contemporary spin by creating one-of-a-kind Batik stamps based on three flowers: sunflower, stargazer lily and jasmine – flowers that are not normally seen in traditional batik.

“With the help of nanotechnology and innovation, the facemasks are both safe and fashionable for public use. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with Volvo Car Malaysia and NanoTextile that mobilises the talent of our local communities and enables them a source of income; at the same time, showcase a line of uniquely designed facemasks that are made for Malaysians to protect themselves.”

The masks are handmade using up to 100% cotton and are anti-bacterial, water-repellent and provide bacterial and viral protection for up to 100 gentle washes. A PM 2.5 filter adds a fifth layer of protection and is tested to effectively filter out 90% of viral particles, Volvo says.

“Nanotechnology opens the door to a whole new way of processing materials in the textile industry,” said NanoTextile CEO Thomas Ong. We’re looking at better quality fabrics made from a greater variety of materials, including nanoplastics.

“Through this partnership, we hope to showcase the potential of nanotechnology as one of the solutions to environmental pollution, and also that in producing better quality materials, people will be able to treat them as premium curated items that can last them many uses and for a long time.”

Akhtar added, “Climate change is a big problem to address alone, but together with like-minded organisations, brands and people, we can make an impactful difference to our community and the planet. We hope that through this partnership, we can inspire Malaysians to make more sustainable choices for the sake of our planet.”

The face masks come in a set of three in either medium or large sizes. They feature a unique Batik Tetap pattern as a tribute to Malaysia’s art heritage, with different flower designs and colours – sunflower in dark blue, stargazer lily in navy and jasmine in light blue. The set is priced at RM99 and can be purchased at Volvo dealerships nationwide.

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