Paul Dillinger’s home is strewn with face masks. And that’s because our head of global product innovation has spent his time in lockdown designing them for the worldwide Levi’s® community. After plenty of hard work, he decided on masks that are affordable, comfortable, and, we must say, look pretty great. In other words, masks you won’t mind wearing.
We’re proud of Paul, and of his design, and we’re excited to share his reflections on how they came about.
Who came up with the idea to make these masks?
I think the more appropriate question is who didn’t come up with the idea. As soon as we all got locked down, there were initiatives around some form of face mask-making from pretty much every business function and every region in the company. And it’s a testament to the foundational values of the company that in everyone’s moment of need, so many people here wanted to make a product and put it to good use for a good cause.
First, we wanted to have masks to protect our employees. Second, we focused on designing something reusable that represents our values, and that people will be proud to wear. Third, we wanted to make these available to our consumers.
How did you settle on this particular model?
I made it at home. The original sample was made on my kitchen table. I’m on the design team, so I happened to have all the materials right here.
From there it was a process of, what would we want our masks to look like? What are the principles that guide it? First, it must be affordable. Second, it must be comfortable. Comfort is actually the key. These masks aren’t for medical use. This is to help stop the spread, by covering everyone’s mouth. And in order for that to work, you have to have something that’s comfortable enough that people will wear it all day when they’re out and in contact with other people.
Anything that might be a motivator to take the mask off is a design flaw. And any adaptation to allow you to wear it as long as possible is a design feature. So I was constantly thinking about what’s the right fabric for Levi’s® look and feel, but also what’s the easiest fabric to allow people to wear it the longest.
What are the masks made of?
We’re going to be using 100% cotton. That’s closest to the construction of Levi’s® bandanas. The bandana is an iconic Levi’s® piece. It was already designed to go with everything.
How many different prototypes did you go through before you decided on this model?
This is the fourth prototype — but how many different pieces? I mean, my house is covered with them.
What was behind the choice to include the red tab?
In order for this company to have value in the future, that red tab has to mean something. We provide lifestyle solutions. If we’re afraid of putting a red tab on this mask, we’re afraid of, you know, being Levi’s®.
But more fundamentally than that, having the Levi’s® red tab is the best way to tell which side is up. The first time I fit this mask on Janine Chilton-Faust, our vice president of men’s design, we spent a good three minutes critiquing the fit before we realized we had the thing upside down.
What makes these masks so comfortable?
A lot of medical masks have undergone reengineering over the years that have made them cheaper. That has involved reducing the elastic used to make them. And that means these masks fit super-tight, and they feel like they’re grabbing your face.
If you look at our mask from the nose to the chin, there’s depth that accommodates your face. This mask isn’t sitting against your nose. It’s not touching your lips when you’re talking. It’s sitting away from your face so you don’t feel like you’re being attacked by this thing.
Levi’s® face masks are available now.
We’re making a $75,000 donation to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to support the lifesaving medical work they do worldwide.