How Two Best Friends Turned Their Trendy Face Masks Into A Sustainable Marketplace – Forbes

Tania Sarin and Cat Wennekamp started the Styleguise as a fashion app offering style help, on demand and by the hour. But shortly after launching, the pandemic hit causing their initial offering of styling to be no longer needed. The best friends were saddened to see all the out of work seamstresses, tailors and creatives. They wanted to find a way to help consumers and the industry through the Styleguise. The one thing that was needed at the time was protective face wear. Sarin and Wennekamp also noticed that there weren’t many chic options on the market for face masks, “We quickly pivoted our focus from closet edits and event styling to being a full fledged online store selling the highest quality and most attractive masks on the market while employing these same people. At this point our number one goal was to ensure all men and women felt chic while being protected in such a dark time and helping our community.”

Following the guidelines then provided by the CDC, they worked on a new mask pattern that had never been seen before- sleeker, more attractive and comfortable. In all of this they wanted the masks to be sustainably sourced. “We took it one step further and worked with designer deadstock material sourced locally in Los Angeles. Purchasing this deadstock material allowed us to get expensive high quality, breathable fabrics for a fraction of the price. Producing and milling our own fabric for mask production was out of the question at the time since all factories were shut down…another blessing in disguise. This forced us to think sustainably and constantly use local sources at every turn,” they explained. “Purchasing this material helped remove it from the inevitable landfill it would one day find itself in kick starting our effort to make sustainability and online retailing work together.”

The masks became an instant hit being photographed on countless-celebrities, like Bella and Gigi Hadid, Addison Rae, Olivia Rodrigo, Christy Tiegan, Megan Fox, Kaia Gerber, Rosie Huntington-Whitley, Zane Malik, Jacob Elordi, Maddy Zeigler, etc. With tens of thousands of masks sold, the pivot turned to be a success but it was only temporary. As the world came out of the pandemic and face masks were no longer required, there was excess material to be used. Sarin and Wennekamp anticipated that and had the foresight to begin quietly designing and developing a clothing line of elevated basics. With the surplus of mask material they were able to incorporate and design pieces around the fabric itself. By November of 2021 we the Styleguise launched 14-piece womenswear collection. Finding a way to reduce pollution and waste of the mask fabric was a key move for the pair as over 1.6 billion masks ended up in oceans.

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The Styleguise didn’t stop with their own collection, they now are sustainable marketplace selling over x brands from emerging designers from all parts of the globe who focus on one of the major pillars of sustainability. For brands to be on the shop they must do all or some of the following; no plastic in their packaging, sewn by local artisans, collections made solely of deadstock material, vegan fabric, with local manufacturing and fulfillment. The evolution of the Styleguise remains true to Sarin and Wennekamp’s ethos, “Slow fashion proves to be our winning business model and we will remain vigilant in the brands we onboard and choose to spotlight.”

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