Italian business makes transparent face masks

Author: Amanda Vieira / CBS
Published: Updated:
(CBS News)

A toothy grin with a stranger, a smile to a paying customer. In Italy, fashion company Dienpi is adding good vibes to safety, with their new smile-friendly surgical masks.

What began worldwide as an essential item for the deaf and mute, has now become the latest must-have for Italian businesses reemerging after months of lockdown.

“Transparent masks are for everyone,” says Doriana Marini, CEO and founder of Dienpi.

“Anyone can use this device to have easier communication, not just with words, but also with gestures, facial expressions, lip movements….for example, to send a kiss (laughs),” she adds.

Dienpi’s masks are made in Italy and assembled by hand, just like their fancy labels for the fashion industry, with clients like Valentino, Gucci and Chanel.

But when coronavirus hit Italy in March, Marini was faced with a choice: shut down or pivot with the pandemic.

Her factory was equipped with stitching machinery ready to go. She designed her first washable, medically-certified surgical mask, which soon became the transparent model currently getting all the hype. The transparent center panel is made of polyurethane, which is sealed to fabric using thermal-welding and stitching. The two-step process guarantees insulation even after four washes.

“Demand has grown exponentially,” says Marini. “We began with requests from specific entities, such as for deaf individuals, and now we sell it and receive orders from the most varied sectors, such as hotels, restaurants, schools, and also beauticians, hairdressers. Anyone who needs to have a smile while at work.”

Orders for transparent masks have already reached 15,000. Marini beta-tested the transparent masks with small businesses in her hometown of San Benedetto del Tronto. After two months of a complete standstill due to COVID-19 measures, shop owners have responded enthusiastically.

Local hairdresser Barbara Celli is seeing clients who have waited months to get their hair cut. The mask makes welcoming them back a little bit easier.
“Clients are coming back from a difficult time and are in need of a smile, so being able to show your mouth is very important,” says Celli.

At gelato shop Cremosé, workers have new hygiene measures so selling the treats is safe.

Wearing masks is a basic requirement – but the transparent panel makes dealing with customers a little bit warmer than the ice cream they’re selling.

“These transparent masks are very important for us because in our job, the most important thing is a smile, first thing,” says Rossana Tartabini, owner of Cremosé Gelato shop. “A smile and also to be able to quickly understand the customer, and have them understand you too.”

For one dental hygienist showing teeth is key, especially for patients with hearing loss.

“Especially in my job when I try to explain tooth brushing techniques, the patient relies also on watching lip movements,” says Adele Mattioli.

The cost of the mask is about $7 each. Dienpi is running further laboratory tests to certify BFE (bacterial filtration efficiency) and the degree of bacterial load on the mask’s surface.

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