There hasn't been a single person on Earth who hasn't been affected by the pandemic. Now that we're a full year in — with daily life as we know it dramatically different — the vaccine has provided a glimmer of hope that a return to normalcy isn't that far off. However, there are certain things that might actually become commonplace once cities start to reopen: masks.
While the early days of the pandemic relied on people wearing ugly, surgical masks, designers have since embraced the challenge associated with providing protection — while designing something that is front and center on a wearer's face.
Perhaps we won't ever need to use masks while we're just walking around, but you better believe there will be masks when people are flying on airplanes — given the close proximity to one another — and the realization that masks can present other illnesses like colds and the seasonal flu.
Henry Mask was born out of necessity. The masks' unique origami-inspired design, the high level of protection, and their philanthropic message (for every mask purchased, one is donated to medical workers on the front lines and families in need) put the brand on the map in April of 2020. With no outside investment, the brand made a $1 million in just 5 months.
But where did this company come from? Like so many stories, it begins with sheer resiliency.
Patrick Henry, known professionally as “Fresh," dropped out of college at 21. His true passion lay in fashion more than the classroom. He eventually channelled that desire into opening his own tailoring shop in the Memphis arts district.
After struggling to realize his potential in Memphis, he moved to New York City to further pursue tailoring. After the market crash, he left New York and moved to Los Angeles in 2013 to work for Ermenegildo Zegna. By the end of 2017, Fresh was living in a homeless shelter.
But he wasn't broken. He had it in his mind to become a "celebrity tailor" even though he didn't have a single celebrity client. Through sheer determination, he turned his last $300 into a $1 million through his namesake brand, Richfresh, which produced started producing bespoke suits in 2018. Clients included The Weeknd, Dwywane Wade, Rick Ross, and more.
There was seemingly nothing that could derail the train. And then COVID-19 hit, and all of his hard work was once again threatened. While a lesser man may have packed it up and called it a day, he and his brother, Chase, understood that their experience in design — as well as understanding the infrastructure needed to produce garments — could benefit the greater good.
"We needed to find masks for our staff and that turned into a hustle," Fresh says. "We started selling them to other factories and then we just decided one day, man I bet we can turn this into something bigger."
Henry Masks was formed in April 2020. Since it was a different product offering than they were used to creating, it involved some trial and error first.
"We didn't get comfortable with the first Henry masks," he says." We were constantly evolving and thinking, 'How can we make this better?'”
"When we started hearing stories about complete strangers bumping into each other at the grocery store or at the airport — people who have never known each other before — and they notice the Henry masks and there are cases where some of these people have become friends, I was like 'Wow, that's really cool,'” says Chase Henry. "We were able to create something that brings people together."
The Rock The Bells x Henry Mask collaboration is a testament to ingenuity, solidarity, and community.
"Rich Fresh is a truly talented designer who we are thrilled to be teaming up with," says LL COOL J. "It is our mission at Rock The Bells to elevate Black-owned brands and designers, and we couldn't be more excited to unveil this collaboration with Henry Mask."