In 2020, the production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) became imminent and imperative for the apparel industry worldwide. For Storm Creek, the making of a face mask proved to be one of the most positive outcomes of a challenging year, allowing the company to test its design prowess by creating a product outside its usual wheelhouse.
Storm Creek president Doug Jackson emphasized from the beginning of the design process that the mask had to live up to the quality level of the brand.
“It was imperative our masks be made with good materials, fit properly, and have the right details,” Jackson said. “As well as being reasonably priced for the quality level.”
Initially, the design team was apprehensive. Storm Creek was already behind other brands in terms of development and manufacturing, until one of its factories approached the team about producing a mask.
“Since the factories had a decrease in production and an increase in space due to COVID-19, there was support for designing a mask that lived up to our standards in a timely manner,” said Jeff Wright, Senior Designer.
The design team dove into the process in May 2020.
Step One - Research
Wright began investigating a variety of design options. From paper N95s to homemade pleated masks, he looked at everything from medical to high fashion. In all, he brought in 48 different samples to consider. After vigorous review and research, he settled on three main types of masks to prototype; a 3D cup design, a flat pleated design, and a neck gaiter (tube).
The 3D design stood out as the most viable option so the mask lays flat against the wearer’s cheek for comfort and protection.
Step Two - Prototypes
After the three mask types were chosen, the design team moved on to the prototype stage. This entails sketches, measurements, choosing suppliers, and fabrics. To speed up the process, they settled on choosing fabrics Storm Creek already had. Fun fact: the final mask is made of the same material as The Navigator LINK! There was innovation in the way Wright used sportswear fabric to mimic the 3D design of paper medical-grade masks. Using this approach helped close the gap on how to achieve a universal fit. Details like adjustable ear straps and wireframing around the nose were tweaked and perfected.
“In comparison to apparel, masks require more prototyping for fit and design,” Wright said. “For example, do you make the gaiter shorter? Taller? Single-ply? Shaped bottom? There were constantly new prototypes to try around the office in search of the best product.”
Step Three - The Finishing Touches
The Protector Reusable Mask was the final outcome of a rigorous fast-paced design process. Once the team was comfortable and confident with the design, Storm Creek produced a small quantity to gauge interest and overall opinion.
“We received wonderful reviews from distributors to consumers,” said Jackson. “Before we knew it, masks were sold out!”
Minor tweaks were made for overall product satisfaction, such as lengthening the adjustable ear straps, giving more height to the front, and reducing puckering by modifying the inner layer so it’s slightly smaller.
Overall, the mask is a huge win for Storm Creek. Customers agree it’s the most comfortable mask they’ve ever worn.
Check out some of the reviews!
“The metal in the nose area helps it fit snug. I can wear this mask with my glasses, and my glasses don't slip all over the place. The mask stays put so I don't have to worry. Machine wash went well.” - Pam O.”
“I have several brands and settled of make and these are the best by FAR! Comfortable for all-day use and they look nice. I just wish they came in more colors to coordinate with my entire Storm Creek wardrobe.” Heather T.
“These are the most comfortable and high-quality masks! The material is very soft and they are holding up incredibly well after a lot of wear and washing.” - Tricia N.
“This mask is so soft and comfortable. I love the adjustable straps. It fits well. I've been wearing it on long walks outside in the cold weather, too. Highly recommend!” Kristen O.
“These masks are my absolute favorite! The fabric is so soft and the adjustable straps are a must-have.” Alicia O.