Making Masks with a Higher IQ
Woven into every step of VF’s mask development process has been our company’s rigorous standards for human rights, environmental responsibility and product safety.
Breathing. Nothing comes more naturally to us. Here in 2020, there may be nothing more imperative to protecting both personal and global health than breathing through the new daily staple: a mask on every face.
Together with the support of VF’s product design and development teams, our JanSport® and Eagle Creek® brands have developed a range of new consumer mask choices that are not only fashionable, functional and compliant, but produced in an environmentally responsible manner.
A new product category
The consumer need is immense and growing, with 2020 face mask sales expected to surpass $4 billion globally and reach $21.2 billion by 2026.
Despite the expected growth, many masks in the market are made to be disposable, creating even more waste for an already distressed planet. Consumers, meanwhile, trust products from VF brands to stay true to their sustainability and responsibility ethos by meeting the highest standards of social responsibility and environmental stewardship.
VF’s masks will be reusable for at least 10 wash cycles, with the possibility of going up to 30 wash cycles, according to Harsha Chenna, VF’s Senior Director of Global Product Stewardship. Besides the ability to be washed repeatedly – which experts say is one of the best ways to ensure mask efficacy – VF’s masks feature state-of-the-art breathability, and fit and fabric filtration properties.
“Our objective is to keep people safe and protected,” said Anna Gross, Manager, Product Stewardship, Americas. “Our goal is not to capitalize on a pandemic. Our goal is to help keep people protected – and to make some cool, fashionable masks.”
Tailored to consumer needs
Consumer needs have guided VF’s mask development at every step. Our brands employed their collective innovations all the while working on accelerated timetables.
Jamie Marchbank, Product Creation Vice President for JanSport® and Eagle Creek®, said, “Our mask development was hyper focused on consumer needs, with Eagle Creek® masks delivering on travel-specific needs and JanSport® solutions centering around individual style and all day comfort that is paramount to a safe return to school.”
The teams used robust testing to create solutions that work across broad cross-sections of face sizes and wear preferences. Made of light, non-woven material, the masks offer exceptional breathability, adjustable straps that loop easily around the ears or behind the head, and sleek design patterns.
Marchbank continued, “A ’key unlock’ during the research processwas the realization that it’s essential for consumers to wear their mask in different configurations. For instance, being able to migrate between behind the ears and behind the head eliminates hot spots that develop during long-term use – a problem identified by first responders.”
The JanSport® and Eagle Creek® masks also feature an integrated hanging loop which allows the mask to rest comfortably on the chest when not in use. The hands-free feature keeps the mask closer to the body and off foreign surfaces such as school desks and airline tray tables.
“Above all, the most important challenge we identified for all-day wear was breathability,” Marchbank said. “We arrived at solutions that are breathable enough that members of our internal teams have successfully biked to the top of Mount Evans (in Colorado). So, our masks are even comfortable at 14,000 feet!”
“Ultimately, we believe they will provide a premium alternative to some of the less-breathable cotton and poly mask products currently on the market,” Marchbank concluded.
Accelerated timeline – keeping our associates in mind
The development of these masks illustrates just one more way VF works to keep our associates safe, and in this case, in a highly expedited fashion.
It typically takes a year, sometimes two, to develop product stewardship guidelines an entirely new product category. Our mask development initiative took only 12-16 weeks from start to finish. The ability to keep the mask development process moving 24 hours a day is a testament to the global presence of VF’s product stewardship team across the globe, and the benefits of being part of the VF family.
“This truly has been a global, collaborative effort by many teams across the company,” Chenna said.
Consumers will enjoy JanSport® and Eagle Creek® face masks in early 2021, with masks in the Dickies®, icebreaker® and Smartwool® product lines soon to follow.