The more we learn about COVID-19, the more it becomes clear that asymptomatic transmission—that is, the spread of the virus by those who are not presenting symptoms—is a BFD. On Friday, the CDC updated its recommendations to urge all Americans, whether we feel sick or not, to wear cloth masks if we must go out in public, like to the grocery store or pharmacy.
N95 masks must be reserved for healthcare workers on the frontlines, and paper masks are also scarce and should be thrown away after every use. Purchasing a reusable fabric mask is a win-win for the environment and for independent makers. Here's what to shop from California designers.
PS: It should be noted that these masks do not replace the need for social distancing, and they should not be considered an alternative to staying home. They are a simple protective layer, an extra precaution that everyone now must take in public. Cloth masks should also be washed after every wear. Stay safe out there.
*UPDATE Friday, April 17: Several Bay Area counties are expected to announce a mandate requiring that all residents where masks while out in public; orders are already in place in Marin and Sonoma counties, as well as the City of Fremont.
Fnnch's Honey Bear Face Masks for Covid-19 Charities
San Francisco street artist Fnnch is known for spreading sweetness about—his painted honey bears have become recognizable icons of the city. Having sought to lift everyone's spirits with Covid-themed honey bears recently painted around the Castro, the artist launched two mask designs on Friday, April 17th, which sold out within 20 minutes of his promoting the launch via Instagram. A second batch of 250 masks will be made available at noon PST on Thursday, April 23rd. The non-medical masks are designed by Stockhausen Design and sewn in Fnnch's San Francisco studio—the team is employing an out-of-work artist to help with production. Each mask has a pocket for a removable filter and comes with a P2.5 filter, an "N95 equivalent."
One-hundred percent of the proceeds for masks sold will benefit Covid-19 charities. You can also shop limited edition paintings and prints of Fnnch's Mask Bear and Soap Bear; proceeds of the art pieces will go directly to Safety Net Fund, which gives money to Bay Area artists, musicians, and performers who have lost their incomes due to the pandemic.
Bilio's Antimicrobial Knit-to-Shape Face Masks
An Oakland-based designer of technical soft goods founded by Patagonia and Apple alum Billy Smith, Bilio has taken a strategic approach to its knit-to-fit face masks designed for long term use. Facial sizing data informs the ergonomic design that "hugs your smile," while EPA-registered antimicrobial silver yarns, threaded into recycled polyester, inhibit and eliminate bacteria. It's washable, reusable, and currently available in one style, the Koala ($38). Look out for the Kangaroo ($42), with a pouch for replaceable filter inserts, soon. Five percent of profits will be donated to Bay Area COVID-19 relief efforts.
// Order for domestic shipping at biliomask.com.
Gr.dano's Reusable Face Masks in 4- and 8-Packs
Sausalito-based designer Jill Giordano's Gr.dano line has long been on our radar for its simple yet just-edgy-enough designs. Now, Giordano has shifted gears to offer 100 percent cotton, machine washable face masks in an array of sophisticated prints that satisfy the itch for something stylish while still getting the job done. Proceeds from sales of masks to consumers help fund donations of Gr.dano's masks to healthcare facilities, hospitals, and local businesses—the brand has donated more than 1,000 masks so far.
// $40/4-pack, $70/8-pack; grdano.com
Sonson's African Wax Print Fabric Masks + Head Wraps
Oakland designer Rashima Sonson's eponymous label has been giving guys (and gals) a better reason to wear a bow tie since 2014, with swagger-riffic designs in African wax print cotton, leather, feathers, and more. Now, Sonson is applying her dapper eye to non-surgical face masks in fabulous prints for both men and women; the masks themselves have already sold out twice, but you can still purchase a hella chic mask and head wrap combo ($42) in an array of 100 percent cotton prints and color combos.
Rickshaw Bagworks' Three-Layer Batik Face Masks
Beloved San Francisco maker Rickshaw Bagworks has also rolled out a collection of masks, all hand-sewn with elastic ear loops and three layers each fine-woven fabrics, including 100 percent cotton. The reversible masks come in three sizes and an array of colorful batik prints all with solid-color interiors. Please note you should still wash your mask before reversing it.
// $22, at rickshawbags.com
Masktopia's Buy-One-Donate-One Masks
From Sausalito-based sustainable fashion brand Très Nomad comes Masktopia, a project that, for every mask sold, is donating one mask to a healthcare worker in need. As of mid-April, the team had donated more than 7,500 masks. These well-designed, washable face covers protect against pollutants and promise a snug fit with an adjustable metal nose clip and velcro closure. Filter inserts are sold separately.
// $15/mask, $9/3-pack nano-replacement filters, at masktopia.com
Adelle Stoll's Wool Felt Face Masks
Sonoma-based designer Adelle Stoll typically puts her talent to work in crossbody and tote bags designed in leather and German felt wool. Now, she's employing that same lightweight, two-millimeter wool in unbleached-cotton-lined face masks with a contoured nose bridge and snug fit to banish glasses fog. Each mask is hand-sewn in Santa Rosa and is mashine washable; Stoll recommends baking her masks in the oven for 30 minutes at 170-degrees between washings to fully sanitize and remove excess moisture.
// The masks ($48) are available in gray and blue; Stoll will donate one mask to a local medical facility for every mask purchased; she is also donating masks to her local grocery workers; adellestoll.com.
Joshu Vela's Buy-One-Give-One Reusable Face Masks
Perhaps you've visited the 16th Street shop (by appointment) of Joshu Vela, the line of meticulously detailed leather goods and accessories founded by craftsman Noah Guy. During the coronavirus pandemic, Guy and his workshop team have shifted gears to stop making bags and start sewing masks. Through their purpose-driven division, Joshu.org, the team is requesting donations to sew and ship masks to frontline healthcare workers; they have also made masks available for retail purchase this week under the buy-one-give-one model. In other words, when you purchase your own made-in-SF-mask, you'll also be donating one to a nurse or doctor in need. Two colors are available, black and chambray.
// Two styles will be available for online ordering at pickup at the Mission store: standard cotton ($20) and cotton with a pocket for filter insert ($30). Follow the brand for updates on Instagram; shop and make donations at joshu.org; joshuvela.com.
Stevie Howell Studio's Organic Cotton Face Masks
Textiles designer Stevie Howell may have moved her game from the Bay Area to Los Angeles (as so many fashion designers must), but that doesn't mean we love her work any less. This past Friday on Instagram, Howell announced the arrival of organic cotton face masks to her online store. Available in five of the studio's favorite prints, the masks are being made in collaboration with the Printmakers Collective—a zero-profit initiative—and Mask America to help combat COVID-19.
// $38 each; order online at steviehowell.com.
Traveler Surf Club's Mask Project
Pacifica-based coastal-style outfitter Traveler Surf Club is teaming up with Silver Lining Bespoke and taking community donations to make masks with 100 percent cotton linings and pouches that can hold DIY filter inserts (check their website for filter recommendations). Sewn in factories in SF and L.A., the masks are available both for donation and for sale. Exterior fabrics come in an array of prints and colors. When you buy four masks ($65) for your household, Traveler Surf Club will donate four masks to healthcare heroes in need.
Azadeh Riaz's Three-Layer Face Masks
San Francisco designer Azadeh Riaz is best known for her glamorous gowns, under the label Azadeh Couture, that typically grace the social crowd at black-tie openings of the opera and symphony, but like so many of her creative kin—i.e. designers with sewing skills and a sudden dearth of orders for party frocks—Riaz is putting her talents toward the cause. Her face masks are made with three layers of breathable cotton and non-woven material; they ship within 24 hours around the Bay Area. Riaz and her team are also donating masks to healthcare workers.
// $4.50 each, text 415-887-2026 to order; follow Azadeh on Instagram for updates.
Claflin, Thayer & Co.'s Made-in-Oakland Reusable Face Masks
We've long been gaga for Oakland-based Claflin, Thayer & Co.—those leather lips just get us every time. While her shop is closed, designer Liz Thayer has been working from home to create cute masks that she's been donating to those in need; now, she's gearing up to make them available for sale to the public.
"Many of you have asked if I will be selling masks," she wrote on Instagram on Saturday. "I did not want to because it feels weird to be charging people for necessities like a mask during a health crisis. I have already donated 100+ to the healthcare industry and have 2 more projects lined up which will directly help nurses in need. However, let's face it. I am a tiny 1-person business. My shop is closed, I basically have no money coming in, and my bills are starting to pile up. So YES, I WILL BE SELLING MASKS."
*UPDATE, Mon. April 6: Claflin Thayer is now sold out of masks and is working to fill its orders for donations of masks to those in need. Check Instagram for updates.
Ben Venom's Graphic, Recycled Fabric Face Masks
SFAI graduate and now visiting faculty member Ben Venom is making masks in his San Francisco studio from swaths of recycled fabrics with graphic prints—think geometrics, florals, and camo. Until now, his masks have been donated to family, friends, and ER doctors, but he hopes to make them available for for purchase soon; he's even working on baby masks ("I have a two-year-old daughter," he says). // Follow him on Instagram for updates; benvenom.com.
Want to recommend California makers who have masks available for sale? Message @7x7bayarea on Instagram—we hope to continue adding to this post.
Can you sew? Volunteer to help make masks at masksnow.org.