Fashion

Fino's Leather Face Masks Are Crazy Cool. And They Make Sense

Think of leather wearables as the label’s luxed-up version of protection.  
IMAGE Fno
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It took a cast of characters to bring Fino’s leather face masks to life. Rommel Bautista, co-owner of the Filipino leathergoods company, is a doctor who rides bikes, and his unique credentials as a surgeon who works at ground zero of the pandemic, the hospital, as a well a motorbike enthusiast informed the creation of the La Mascherina Limitado face masks, the label’s luxed-up version of pandemic protection.  

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The leather face mask looks premium.

At a virtual event, the doctor explained the inner workings of Limitado, which is the second generation of the label’s leather wearables. On the question of leather as a viable material for masks, the doctor replied, “Why not leather? Leather is a noble material.”

Photo by Fino.
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His wife Rose Ann, also the co-owner of Fino, echoed the thought, adding how the company endeavors “to move the bar up,” hence the use of Italian calfskin embossed with alligator skin or snakeskin prints in the Limitado masks or the mix of geometric patterns in the Limitado Vinta masks, the newer set in the series.

Indeed, the use patterned leather tooled by Fino craftsmen into a form reminiscent of the leather masks worn by bikers creates a premium look… or an intimidating look as it can remind you of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs and, if your mind wanders, a sexy look related to S&M (it’s the leather vibes).

Photo by Fino.
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Whatever idea pops into your head, these leather face masks counter what you see every day: the dependable surgical face masks, the assorted masks of cloth, and the specialized masks from big brands like Uniqlo or Adidas. When wearing these in a sea of faces half-hidden by blue boxes, you will stand out.

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The leather face mask lasts longer.

But looking expensive or cool, sexy or scary is not the only ace of Fino’s leather face masks. Rommel pointed out how they can be reused and, with proper care (wipe down the leather with a cleaning solution), used for a very long time.

Photo by Fino.
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The doctor also brought up a downside of using surgical masks: You throw them away after a few wears, leading to a big old pile of potentially contaminated materials.

He opined how the regular disposal of disposable masks may contribute to the spread of coronavirus. At hospitals, surgical masks are treated as a biohazard and disposed of by a specialized contractor, but at home, don’t you throw away your used masks in a bin? The refuse is then collected by a dump truck and everything ends up in a landfill. What happens in between and after? Nobody knows.

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The doctor didn't want to make something that will lead to another problem, and so he created “a product that negates all that.”

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The leather face mask provides everyday protection.

The big question is: Will a leather face mask protect you from harm? The doctor said yes but made clear it can only provide “ordinary protection,” as in he doesn’t recommend wearing this mask if you’re working in the ICU or if you are taking care of a COVID-19 patient. But for the daily activities of the weird now, such as trips to the grocery or the bank, the mask’s filter is “robust enough to take care of you.”

Photo by Fino.
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The filter, which was developed by the doctor and installed underneath the leather shell, is made of three layers: a layer of foam thermo-welded between two nylon fabric liners, all of which creates a thick barrier that is also soft for a comfortable wear.

And, of course, this is designed to be washed and reused. To clean: Soak in a soap solution for two minutes and then rinse. As the doctor says, there are no consumables here.

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The leather face mask is a shout out to the Philippines.

Now, what to get? The reptilian Limitado masks in teal or pewter or sand are fine choices, but if you’re chasing the newest of the new, consider the Vinta masks. Previously, Fino’s face masks came in solid colors on textured calf leather, but the Vinta, as envisioned by creative Luis Espiritu, presents “a collage of different leathers,” from regular to exotic skins, crocodile to python textures.

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Photo by Fino.

As its name suggests, the patterns mimic the sails of a vinta, the traditional boat of Mindanao. “It's one of the cultural aspects that we want to promote,” says Rose Ann. To emphasize even more how very Filipino the leather face masks are, the couple tasked mannequin Hannah Locsin, the first Filipino model who walked for Italian fashion house Gucci, as the ambassador of the Limitado masks.

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The bright, young thing, who recently moved to New York, co-created a social media campaign featuring the leather face masks. There she is against a wall of graffiti, wearing an appropriately bright orange mask with a PPE coat by designer Neric Beltran. And here she goes wearing a Vinta mask, which she perfectly matches with a bandana tied around her hair. And now, she’s in front of Tiffany’s so she wears a black-and-white ensemble (mask plus sheer button-down) for an Audrey Hepburn moment.

Photo by Fino.
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Hannah reported that, while shooting the campaign, people would come up to her and ask about the leather on her face: “Oh, that’s a really different kind of mask. Where’d you get that?” 

“If people ask about the mask I’m wearing, I always say that I’m wearing a Filipino brand,” the model said. When I say that, [there’s a] sense of pride because I get to share something from home.”  

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More PPE: This Filipino Leathergoods Brand Has Donated Over 1,000 Colorful PPE to Frontliners

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Clifford Olanday
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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