A BRISTOL-based fabric designer is rekindling a family association with the textile trade by creating designs for fashion-conscious face mask wearers.

Sarah Burghard, a bespoke textile designer for the hospitality trade, has been commissioned to add some fashionable flair to a range of masks made in a pioneering 3D fabric with an anti-viral finish.

The masks have been produced by Sarah’s cousin, Charles Wood, who runs Baltex – a textile company set up by their great-great-great grandfather William Ball in 1830.
Today the company continues to thrive in the design, manufacture and supply of high-performance technical textiles and sales of their latest product – the Airox Face Mask – have surged by 450%.

Now Sarah is responding to the needs of customers demanding a more attractive mask while still having the reassurance that it has the technical capabilities and comfort of the original design.

Sarah, who runs her business from a houseboat in Bristol Marina, said:

“Although we both have a six generation heritage in the textile industry, and we both have businesses rooted in fabrics, it’s the first time Charles and I have collaborated together.

“While Charles has predominately been working with utilitarian clients like the NHS and the military, I have been working more creatively, so it’s wonderful to produce something together.

“It has been a challenge to establish how you transfer a pattern onto this material, so we have spent some time ensuring the printing processes and techniques are spot on.”

Baltex won an innovation prize from The Textile Institute in 2010 for its work in 3D fabrics and at the start of the pandemic the company transferred its research and development capabilities into the Airox Face Mask.

Using the same 3D fabric technology it used to develop a pressure relief cushion for wheelchair users and mattresses, the reusable mask provides two layers of breathable fabric in a single lightweight construction which is comfortable to wear as it distributes pressure evenly.

The fabric is water repellent so, unlike cotton, avoids the absorption of droplets and is also constructed to divert expelled air, which reduces the chance of passing the virus on.

The masks, which are machine washable at 60 degrees, are also coated in an antiviral finish, called ViralOff, from the Swedish hygiene specialist Polygiene.

Baltex is one of the first companies in the world to use the finish on a face mask. While the treatment has not been tested against Covd-19, it has been accredited with reducing levels of Influenza A, BirdFlu, Norovirus and SARS by 99%.

Like Charles, Sarah has also shifted the emphasis of her business during lockdown, establishing a virtual interior design service, a move which still allows her to use the flair for fabrics she has inherited from generations of her family.

Sarah added: “I like to tell the story of a product or company through the fabric and so my designs for the facemask have taken inspiration from the woven texture of the material.
“While it is easy to buy either pretty masks or functional masks, the idea is that the Airox has all the science and style of both.”

The Airox Face Mask retails at £7.99.  To learn more, visit: www.airospring.co.uk