Beverley Robotham lives Jamaica 58 theme –Resilient and Strong
Long before Buju Banton’s I am Jamaican Festival song won the hearts of locals and members of the diaspora, the woman responsible for giving the region Island Dolls was busy manufacturing masks depicting the island’s rich culture.
Beverley Robotham, who lost her entire market to COVID-19, says, in the true sense of the words, “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” She ‘tun har’ hands and made fashion masks in tribute to Jamaica’s 58 years of Independence.
Using the Jamaican national colours, and emblems, such as the hummingbird and the flag, Robotham has released an impressive collection made from twill on the outer layer, complemented by two layers of Dacron and cotton for extra protection.
“The material used is excellent for breathing, our research has shown, and we have followed the guidelines of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control),” she shared.
The masks with the inscriptions ‘One Love’, ‘True Yardie’, ’58 Years Strong & Free’, ‘Good Jamaican Vibes Only’, ‘Right Outta Jamaica’, and ‘Proud Jamaica’ are just some of the few statements celebrating Jamaica.
She also custom-made masks with pockets on request, but says they are very time-consuming.
Robotham, who has operated Island Dolls for 27 years and sold mainly to souvenir shops across the island and in the Caribbean countries of Barbados, Antigua, Trinidad, Grenada, St Kitts, Bermuda and St Lucia, said with COVID-19 and the lockdown, her income dropped to zero.
“I had 3,000 pieces (dolls) and stuffed toys on order that I was producing for the Barbados Crop Over and Spice Island Carnival, and those had to be placed on hold,” she stated.
Realising she had lost her market, she said a business acquaintance told her to utilise her seamstresses to make masks in March 2020.
She started out making regular masks like everybody else, but the market dried up because of saturation. “I am always known to gear towards a niche market, so right around Father’s Day I did Father’s Day masks and they did very well.”
Her customers, specifically Liguanea Drug and Garden, encouraged her, she said, to do more masks, this time with the Jamaican sayings.
“So I started cultural masks, tagging them ‘Mask MekAYaard’. She did a ‘Jamaica 58 years’ mask first, she explained, adding that all Jamaicans should be proud of the 58 years of Independence, even with the challenges, “We are a free nation and a very proud nation, with some of the most influential people in the world.”
She is convinced that her cultural masks will go well with the diaspora as well. “People want to identify with our little island. We little but we tallawah.”
Come September, Robotham will have another group of Jamaicans donning her masks. Three schools will wear her masks by Island Dolls, namely, Campion College, St Richard’s Primary and Stella Maris Preparatory. Some of them have already been delivered in a combined order of 2,400 masks, stated Robotham, who said she was doing so well with the three schools, she will be unable to take orders from others.
The businesswoman says the schools are expected to increase their orders.