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Facemask Innovation from the Bottom Up

Japan’s facemask shortage has led to companies creating new and innovative masks you would never expect to see on someone’s face.

Innovator Busts Out a New Trend

As the coronavirus took over the news and facemasks became scarce, Japanese model Yumeno Asahina posted a handmade mask she made out of an unused pretty blue embroidered bra which got her a lot of attention worldwide. You can follow the step-by-step How-To guide here on the Asia-One website.

Building on Momentum

By the middle of March, another report appeared that a sewing company in Toyama, called the Atsumi Fashion Co. was repurposing bras into facemasks that it claimed able to filter out the COVID19 virus, as reported by the Japan Times.

I’m not sure how many people are bold enough to wear a bra as a facemask no matter how pretty it is, so it’s pretty unlikely there will be a big market for the next innovative facemask made by BVD maker Fujibo.

Brief Innovation

The Japanese company Fujibo has started transitioning some of its manufacturing line of the men’s white underpants briefs material to create facemasks. I’m glad the company is transitioning to create products that are in high demand, repurposing some of its material in less demand. But, as the material is soft white cotton, in the same design as the Y-Front, tidy-whitey brief pants, even if it has the highest level of craftsmanship and comfort, it may not appeal to the wider mask-seeking market.

Repurposing waste materials into new products for sale in new markets is a great example of #upcycling and is a key aspect of a #sustainablebusiness strategy. Find other posts highlighting Japanese businesses using upcycling strategies.

Companies like these underwear companies that find ways to quickly transition to new markets is to be applauded as a key sustainable business strategy. The company is not only creating appeal in new markets and filling demand for a current need, but also providing income and employment for local people during the coronavirus crisis when many working-class jobs are being lost.

Significant Demand can be Met by Large Companies

Government incentives for companies to transition can help larger companies transition quickly to fill larger demand. According to NHK, SHARP is another Japanese company transitioning its manufacturing to provide facemasks after receiving government funding.

Sharp spent about a month setting up its mask production line in the factory’s clean room, using government subsidies.

The company plans to make 150,000 masks a day for the time being, and increase the output to half a million a day. It expects to start shipping this month.

Reusable Masks Promoted

Another good knock-on effect of the innovation in the facemask market in Japan is the promotion of reusable facemasks over disposable. Prime Minister Abe has promised to send all households two reusable cotton masks to help protect residents from the spread of the virus.

Reusable Mask Manufacturing and Sustainability

Making masks also creates societal value as masks help to protect people from catching the virus, therefore protecting people in local communities, allowing more people a better chance to stay healthy – building #socialequity

If schools and work are starting again in Japan: wearing masks, washing hands and staying home when sick are the only tactics available to residents if you don’t want to fail classes or lose your job.

The lack of government forced closures raises a good question about determining which safety guidelines actually work, and are they effective enough to warrant a return to business-as-usual now.