The covid pandemic has been a wake up call, forcing us to recognise that we are not always the masters of our environment, and reshaping our lives in startling and unsettling ways.
Yet out of this panic and suffering, there has been a global mobilisation of people wanting to help, with much of the work focused around the provision of face masks, which are now mandatory in many countries. Individuals and businesses have been finding new and innovative ways to turn their skills to the production of face masks, which have without doubt become the unusual accessory of 2020.
The fallout from the staggering increase in demand for single-use surgical masks and gloves can be seen washing up on shorelines around the world, and conservationists are predicting that there will be a surge in ocean plastic.
Here we consider the alternatives to single use masks and the companies lending their expertise and innovation to meet this new growing demand:
1) Masked by Wires glasses — Wires never imagined making face masks, but again and again they found people experiencing the same problems: masks that were uncomfortable to wear with sunglasses, that steamed up lenses and limited vision, and it occurred to them they could offer a simple yet stylish solution. Their face masks are designed to hang from the frames of the glasses rather than from the ears, which makes them much more comfortable and practical to wear. They work with any frame with an arm of 1.5cm or less. They are all handmade in the UK using 100% organic cotton, are washable and reusable and come in a variety of sizes and colours. For every mask sold, Wires donates a mask & hand sanitiser to refugee camps, in partnership with Help Refugees.
2) AirX by Veritas Bespoke — The AirX is being heralded as the world’s first reusable mask made from coffee. It is 100% vegan, biodegradable, and antimicrobial. The use of coffee is two fold; the first layer is woven from coffee yarn using PowerKnit technology whilst there is also a biodegradable filter inside developed by silver nanotechnology and coffee. AirX has obtained the AATCC 100 certification, the textile industry’s standard for antimicrobial fabric performance in the US. With the capability to mass produce up to 10 000 masks a day, Founder Thanh Le believes that “AirX is not just a recommendation to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but preserve the planet as well.”
3) DHH Mask project — The covid pandemic has made life more difficult for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, since they often need to lip read. College student Ashley Lawrence came up with a novel solution to address this problem, using the materials she had at home to design a reusable mask with a clear panel over the mouth. Her GoFundMe campaign to cover the costs of providing them to people in her local community was soon met, and she has since closed it but provided instructions for people to make their own masks for themselves and others.
4) Everyone Can Make a Mask Project — The artist and designer behind the iconic ‘sneaker mask’, has teamed up with Yutong Duan and developed a simple free mask template. Available in a number of different languages, the project aims to give everyday people the tools to make their own face masks using the materials and resources that they have at home, thus freeing up the N95 masks for the healthcare professionals who really need them.
5) OESH — Shoe manufacturer OESH is using its knowledge of 3D printing to help address the shortage of PPE amongst medical staff. They have been working tirelessly with partners to produce a flexible face mask that can fill the gap when certified N95 masks are not available. Though not presently certified by NIOSH or the FDA, their mask has been designed to fit comfortably and closely to the face, to give maximum protection. It can be washed and reused, the filter can be made with whatever materials you have to hand and it’s completely recyclable. The instructions have been shared online so anyone with a 3D printer can get manufacturing for their local community.
6) Rothy’s — Having their own factory has really helped shoe manufacturer Rothy’s turn their hand to mask development. As well as working on a washable, durable, knit-to-shape, non-medical mask that will be available to purchase soon, they have pooled resources with like minded organisations to form the Open Innovation Project, to provide covid relief to their communities.
7) Face Masks from ocean plastic — PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors) have teamed up with eco-friendly active wear company RashR to make cloth face masks from recycled plastic bottles pulled from the oceans. They have adult and child sizes available in five different designs based on ocean animals, such as sharks and manta rays. The masks are currently available for pre-order and take up has been huge, as people are clearly relishing the opportunity to repurpose polluting ocean plastic. Based on current pre-orders PDAI claim to have removed 24800kg of ocean waste.
8) Nuo 3D mask — Designed by LuxMae, this mask has been heralded as the ‘mask of the future’. It aims to seamlessly blend style, comfort and safety, using AI and 3D technology to deliver a mask that exactly fits the shape of your face and which they claim can filter 98% of bacteria. The mask can be printed in different colours and with a message of your choice. It is washable and reusable and is currently available for pre-order.
9) Fashion Illustration Gallery, mask auction — FIG have turned face masks into pieces of art, which will be auctioned with all proceeds going to the UK registered charity Hope and Homes for Children. The fashion label Colville have provided simple handmade calico face masks, which have been transformed by some of the world’s leading fashion illustrators and contemporary fine artists
10) Get It Right (GIR) — This Californian kitchen wear company have already made a name for themselves for colourful, funky designs and their masks are no different. The stylish ‘kit’ includes a face shield made from medical-grade, FDA and LFGB approved silicone, and five disposable filters. The masks themselves can be sanitised using the dishwasher, microwave or by hand washing in warm soapy water. They come in a range of colours and there are even glow in the dark masks available for children.
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