We had the honor of chatting with Sasha Kohen, co-founder of Southern California men’s clothing brand, Buck Mason. The brand began in 2013 by Koehn and Erik Allen, under the concept of creating quality pieces, designed to last seasons-long with consistency in fit and fabrication. Since the rising of COVID-19, Buck Mason has switched gears and is now one of the go-to retailers providing America with antimicrobial masks, as recently featured in GQ and RollingStone. Read on to learn more about the brand and how they are giving back!
Q. First, congratulations on your recent mentions in Rolling Stone magazine and GQ regarding the manufacturing and donating of your masks. How has COVID-19 affected your business?
A. We never dreamed we’d be able to donate one million masks when this all started, but now that’s looking like a real possibility. I think this shows the unity and empathy of America and the Buck Mason community.
We design and manufacture clothing, so when the government-mandated shutdowns started happening, My partner Erik and I asked ourselves, “How can we be useful in this crisis?” We started doing research around PPE and found a lot of credible information indicating that non-medical masks can be useful in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and to help reduce the demand for medical-grade N-95 masks needed by healthcare workers fighting this disease on the front lines. At the time, the CDC had not yet recommended the use of masks, but international research showed that it might be useful. Our initial idea was to set a goal to manufacture and donate 100,000 masks to essential workers in America. After going to the grocery store and seeing employees there without protective equipment, we realized that a lot more people needed masks, so we announced our donation goal to the Buck Mason community on March 28, 2020 and let them know we’d donate one mask for each one sold, on top of our initial donation plan of 10k, and the response was incredible. We met our 100k goal in 48 hours, then reached 200k a day later…so we decided to up our goal to 1million.
A. We re-tooled a healthy percentage of our supply chain in a week’s time for face mask production and have ramped production to 250,000 face masks per week. That’s a big part of our current focus, just making what matters and trying to be useful to our communities.
Our design is all about function and comfort. Our primary mask is a 3-ply, combed cotton blend that contours around facial features with an adjustable tie in back. We built a few different designs based on the materials we had available. This was all about speed to market, so we worked with the existing machinery and fabrications we had available, but all of our masks meet the CDC guidelines.
Q. Outside of masks, has Buck Mason been able to continue production of ready-to-wear goods?
A. We’re a clothing brand and we’re set on staying focused on our customers needs. People still need clothing. However, we stopped the production of t-shirts and jeans in our domestic and global factories and began working on samples of masks over three weeks ago.
Q. How do you foresee this pandemic affecting the fashion industry as we move forward? Thinking production, future buys, a pause in the industry thinking ahead to future seasons.
A. From my perspective, it’s plausible that we’ll see an acceleration in consumer sentiment for quality essential items that are purchased in a slow and thoughtful manner. Guests might start asking, “Do I really need this?” “Is this the absolute best product for the price?” “Do I really want to support this brand?” Rock steady basics that stand the test of time might become more important than ever. Our aim has always been to design items that are emotional…and even “conscientious” of the consumers needs. I think that’s going to be more important than ever as guests will be looking for items that can perform over a long period of time. At least for our customer demographic, we believe that fast fashion is dead.
Q. As our Country takes strides into returning back to a sense of “normalcy”, with many states lifting quarantine orders in the coming weeks, the demand for masks will certainly continue to increase even more so. How will Buck Mason respond to this rise in demand?
A. We’re going to keep manufacturing masks until the people who need them have them. We’re not thinking about the next five to ten years, we’re thinking about serving our community in the near term. We’re also rolling out some great new technology features that we think will help guests feel safer shopping when the world opens back up.
Q. Outside of COVID-19 talk, our team loves your brand, and we are excited to introduce it to our clients here in Columbus! Buck Mason has over 10 stores, including LA, San Francisco, New York and soon Austin. Is the business more online focused or in-store?
A. With all our stores closed the last 8 weeks we’ve been an online only business, just like when we started. However, as of 5/15, we’ve introduced curbside pickup at select Los Angeles locations and soon to all our locations as government restrictions allow.
Thank you, Sasha and Buck Mason for your time, and for all you are doing to contribute during this pandemic. Click Here to purchase or donate antimicrobial masks from Buck Mason. Follow them on Instagram @buckmason.