As mandatory masks and a second wave of ‘safer at home’ lockdowns roll out across Los Angeles, it’s becoming more and more apparent that masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future. That’s why we’ve been on the hunt for the perfect mask and we’ve found it in the Vast FM.
When the pandemic first began, VAST, an LA-based surf and lifestyle brand known for their streetwear vibe, knew they wanted to make a difference. Founder, Sam Yang, set out to create a product that would be benefit both the community and the environment.
As an avid surfer himself, Yang knew all to well that one- time use masks would eventually pile up on the beaches of SoCal and across the globe. In fact, it’s estimated that over 129 billion face masks and 65 billion plastic gloves are being used every month worldwide during the pandemic posing a big threat to our oceans and waterways if not properly disposed.
Yang decided to work with PPE manufacturers to educate himself on what makes the safest reusable mask and chronicled his journey which led to the launch of the Vast FM mask which is a durable, water repellant mask made with antibacterial fabrics. He also sought out a way to help frontline workers by partnering with local hospitals, such as MLK Hospital here in Los Angeles, on a cozy kickbacks program. We sat down with Yang to discuss both.
What are the environmental impacts to SoCal beaches of the recent use of one time masks and how is VAST trying to combat this?
Not only in Southern California, but ocean conservation agencies around the world, have been discovering an alarming amount of facemasks in the ocean. Single use masks are made of polypropylene which is a type of plastic with a lifespan of approximately 450 years. The harmful impact that this could have on the marine ecosystem here in SoCal is scary. At that point, it was a no brainer to us, we need to make an effective mask to keep people and the ocean safer.
What makes the VAST masks a good option for both personal protection and eco-concerns?
The exterior shell of our mask is highly water repellent, which is optimal for blocking contagious moisture droplets. We used AquaTerra for the inside liner, its non clinging and antimicrobial properties, made from hundreds of deconstructed Vast surf tees. There are 2 straps for a comfortable and secure fit. We also used leather stoppers versus plastic ones for its decompositional properties. Finally, the mask fits securely around your nose and mouth, minimizing entry points.
All of the above makes this mask really effective. Not only that, the mask is reusable, so please wash, and reuse.
Is there a charity component with VAST during the pandemic or as part of the brand ethos?
We are going to be supporting the essential staff at various LA hospitals. For every item purchased online, we will donate a cozy item to the essential staff of various hospitals in LA. To encourage donations, the site will also be 40% off. We believe being comfortable is key to resting and recovering after a long shift. Cozy items include sweatpants, sweat shorts, tees, tanks, long sleeves, and socks.
As a local, what are your personal favorite surf spots in and around Los Angeles?
I enjoy surfing at El Porto in LA, Huntington Beach Pier in OC, and Trestles in San Clemente. Each zone has a different energy, and the waves are fun.
Anything else you want our readers to know about VAST’s plans in SoCal? What’s next?
We’re working with key retailers to bring VAST products to SoCal stores. We’re proud about the pieces we design and develop. The hand feel, quality, and tech we’ve implemented is a thoughtful design difference you’ll notice. We’re also looking to develop more community programs including surfing classes for hospital and essential workers to help with mental stress and physical exercise. Stay tuned for more on that!
VAST FM masks are currently available online ($30 in Khaki with Black, Coral, Teal, or Navy trim.)