Evolvetogether's FDA-registered masks are a protective, yet stylish upgrade to your boring blue surgical mask.

By Emilia Benton
July 27, 2020
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Nick Finochio

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues in tandem with the Black Lives Matter movement, the need for face masks remains more important than ever. Considering social distancing is nearly impossible at most protests, experts agree that face masks—in addition to frequent handwashing, sanitizing, and disinfecting—play a huge role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 at these events. In fact, the widespread use of face masks at protests appears to be the main reason why there hasn't been an increase in COVID-19 cases connected to protests. (See: How to Safely Protest During the COVID-19 Pandemic)

To help protesters continue to stay safe, New York City-based fashion designer, Cynthia Sakai created evolvetogether, a company dedicated to producing disposable medical-grade masks that are protective, affordable, stylish, and, best of all, help you donate to ongoing social justice and anti-racism efforts.

Sakai launched evolvetogether after she received more than 100 boxes of disposable medical-grade masks (read: those blue paper surgical masks) as a gift from an overseas colleague. That colleague then connected Sakai to someone who owned a factory that's producing FDA-registered personal protective equipment (PPE), which is where evolvetogether's masks are now being made.

At first, Sakai says she launched evolvetogether with healthcare professionals, specifically, in mind. She intended to sell not just medical-grade face masks, but also hospital gowns and other PPE that healthcare professionals across the U.S. have been struggling to find during the pandemic.

However, shortly after the company's initial launch, Sakai says she and her team recognized a lack of accessibility to fairly priced, medical-grade face masks for the general public. Granted, face masks—both medical-grade and cloth—have gone back in stock across most stores and online shops since evolvetogether's launch in May. Still, Sakai's masks are a serious upgrade to the boring blue surgical masks you're used to buying in bulk on Amazon. (Related: People Are Designing DIY Clear Face Masks for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing)

"Coming from a fashion background, I always believed that the way you get people to want to wear your product is through it being beautiful and something that is easy to style," Sakai tells Shape.

Plus, Sakai's evolvetogether masks don't sacrifice protection for style. "When it comes to fun, fashionable masks that people want to wear, we're often seeing a lot of cloth face coverings without filters, which aren't as breathable and protective as (less visually appealing) medical-grade masks," she says.

Evolvetogether masks, on the other hand, are one of the only FDA-registered consumer face masks on the market, according to the company's website. The masks—which are available in green, black, and white—are made with an adjustable aluminum nose bridge, an outer waterproof layer, a melt-blown center that can filter out more than 95 percent of viruses and bacteria, and an inner layer designed to absorb moisture, explains Sakai.

The disposable masks are meant to be worn for eight to 10 hours, but you can also tuck them into an accompanying evolvetogether mask-keeper. The pocket-sized foldable container provides on-the-go storage to help keep your mask clean and sterile when eating or drinking. (Related: Should You Buy a Copper Fabric Face Mask to Protect Against COVID-19?)

Wondering what those seemingly random numbers are on the masks? They're actually global coordinates that represent different parts of the world—a nod to the idea that "we're all connected regardless of gender, race, religion, or geographical location," and the notion that wearing a mask means protecting not just yourself, but also those around you, according to evolvetogether's website.

"We wanted to make sure that the masks are not only something to protect yourself but also that they look great and mean something," adds Sakai.

As an added bonus, evolvetogether recently rolled out its we stand together masks. For each we stand together mask purchased, evolvetogether will donate one mask to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Covenant House New York to help protect Black Lives Matter protesters and homeless youth. To date, the company has already donated more than 15,000 masks to these organizations, according to its website.

"We believe everyone should have access to a medical-grade mask," says Sakai. "We also believe everyone should have a voice and be protected and safe while they're out there fighting for these causes in their communities." (Related: Nurses Are Marching with Black Lives Matter Protesters and Providing First Aid Care)

Ready to click "add to cart"? Evolvetogether masks are affordably priced at under $9 for a pack of seven and roughly $35 for a 30-pack (mask-keepers are included in each purchase). Plus, shipping is free on orders of $30 or more, and you have the option to sign up for a monthly subscription, so you don't have to worry about remembering to stock up when you're running low.

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