In 2015, my husband got sick while on a trip to China. The hotel he was staying in called a doctor because he was having trouble breathing. The doctor told him he had most likely got a respiratory infection from the plane, or it could also have been due to the smoke and air pollution in Shanghai. When asking the doctor what he could do to protect himself in the future, he got told that the only thing that he could do was to wear a mask. My husband replied: "What, one of those white masks that make you look like you are sick?", to which the doctor responded, "Yep!".
When my husband arrived home and told me what had happened and that these masks were going to be the new normal for travelers and folks who live in big cities around the world. I couldn't stop thinking about it and feeling like there had to be something better.
Later that week, I randomly got to daydreaming back to my childhood, growing up in the countryside of Costa Rica. My favorite toys as a child were always these two hand-me-down dolls. I loved those dolls, but their clothes were old and worn, so anytime I could get my hands on fabric scraps, I would try to make them new clothes. Most of the time, there wasn't enough material for an entire outfit, so I started to make little scarfs for them instead.
While thinking back those scarfs, I suddenly came up with an idea: Instead of wearing masks, why couldn't we build filters into regular clothes? Why couldn't we have something fashionable that could not only add a special touch to any outfit, but that could also help protect the wearer at the same time? I told my husband about my idea, and he immediately got excited! We immediately got to work researching filtration materials and designing our prototype.
One key hurdle to overcome was the need to create a filtration material that was durable enough to be used in apparel and washable for repeated wear. Most mask filters are single-use and lose their effectiveness after being worn. Pretty much every one of the filtration manufacturers we approached thought we were crazy, but we knew we were onto something and refused to give up. Finally, after months of searching, we found a very specialized manufacturing group to help us make it happen, together we developed our one of a kind G95 filtration material.
In late 2016, we filed our first patent for sandwiching reusable and washable particulate filtration material between fabric in apparel. In 2018, within a few months of launching our first product, the Bioscarf, my husband's home region in the San Francisco Bay Area experienced the worst wildfires in its history. A large area of Northern California became smothered with thick, choking smoke. We knew that our filtration could provide people with precisely the protection they needed during this crisis, and we sent all of the inventory we had to friends and family to distribute.
This crisis was our first "real world" test, and the Bioscarves did the job, outperforming our wildest ambitions. Not only did we have our proof of concept, but we also had terrific feedback from the people who wore our scarves during the fire. Even in thick smoke, the G95 filtration material worked so well that the wearers could not even smell smoke.It's been an adventure with considerable challenges to overcome along the way, but that is how G95 came to life! We call it PPA, Personal Protective Apparel. Last year we began extending the G95 range beyond scarves and created designs for our Biogaiters and our amazing Biohoodie. This year, in response to the global health crisis, we developed our Bioshield, the only washable and re-useable mask with built-in protective filtration.
We couldn't have done it without all of you and our incredible team. We hope you like it.
Hazel Solle, September 2020.