This is the story of the creation of my anti-pollution mask brand Frogmask made in Frogland. What a journey from distributing an American brand in Europe to creating this premium French brand?
From Vogmask distributor to Frogmask brand creator
I used to distribute Vogmask, an American anti-pollution mask brand since 2015 in France, Belgium and Switzerland. Sadly, the owner told me mid april 2020 that Vogmask was withdrawing from Europe to better serve the exploding US market while my sales were also literally skyrocketing due to mask shortage linked to Covid pandemy.
The world collapsed, all my communication work on social networks, the creation of a strong distribution network, shop by shop, and my Eshop wiped out in one email. The dude didn’t even bother to call me!
I had two options. Cry and feel sorry for myself or see this as a huge opportunity to take over Vogmask’s position in Europe.
I had often thought of creating my own brand rather than developing someone else’s, but the comfort of the retailer (the ease of buying a finished product and reselling it), the lack of risk, the fear of taking the plunge, a lack of courage to start from scratch at 50… Everything was stopping me, especially me!
The origin of Frogmask name
I first had the idea of the name Frogmask to play on the English words Frog (the frog because the Anglo-Saxons call us froggies, the frog eaters) and Fog (smoke, fog). Then came the logo, which I imagined to be blue, white and red. And that’s when my creative agency suggested I replace the “made in France” with “made in Frogland”, which was much more fun. I was already asked very seriously where this country was !
To finance the creation of the Frogmask brand, I bought anti-pollution masks in several countries and sold them on my Vogmask website for the first few months. That’s why you can still find N95 Biker masks, PM2.5 pollution masks and barrier masks on the Frogmask website.
It took 9 months to find the best 3D mesh in Italy, aluminium nosebands, PVC labels, custom made FFP2 filters, a workshop downtown Paris at a few minutes of my home, able to make prototypes during lockdown, then to sew small series, to make the tests, to create the website, to make the design of the packs, to find a printer… In a complicated context between telework, lockdown and summer holidays.
An anti-pollution mask with unique features
There is only one model available in 5 colours but in 3 sizes M, L and XL. This is essential because we do not all have the same dimensions and shapes of faces. The mask must therefore be adapted to each morphology in order to be as tight as possible around the face and to ensure that a maximum of inspired air passes through the FFP2 filter.
These are the same masks for cyclists, motorcyclists or pedestrians because the needs are the same in the city. Breathing is very easy even when cycling.
The 3D mesh that makes up 90% of the mask comes from the best Italian manufacturer. It is waterproof, abrasion resistant and Oeke-tex certified without graphene.
In terms of comfort, the repositionable fastening system on the neck is the best thing available to avoid tension behind the ears. This is why the most serious brands have adopted it.
The two flexible nosepieces, one on the filter and one in the mask structure, strongly limit the rise of hot air exhaled on the glasses for those who wear them and therefore the creation of fog.
My Frogmask masks are guaranteed for one year (against manufacturing defects).
Frogmask anti-pollution mask is very efficient, very light, easy to put on the face and to store in the pocket. It breathes very well and doesn’t fog up your glasses. It protects against cold in winter, rain, pollen and insects in spring. It comes in 3 sizes, 5 colours and is handmade in France. All this for less than 40 euros when competing brands are between 40 and 130 euros !
The need to propose the FFP2 filtration standard
Vogmask masks were already FFP2/N95 standard, a term that few people knew about before the pandemic. It was therefore essential to offer this quality of filtration which guarantees that a minimum of 94% of particles up to 0.4µm are filtered.
The FFP3/N99 standard announces at least 98% of the same particles filtered but breathing is much more difficult, especially if the mask is kept on for a long time, so I did not want to use it.
The CE standard, which is compulsory, is awarded by a laboratory approved by the European Union.
I have been using my masks every day for over 2 years for an hour a day and the average life span is between 15 days and 3 weeks. They get dirty faster than they get full. This will still vary depending on the level of pollution and the duration/frequency of use. This amounts to 19 cents per day over 3 weeks.
The choice not to put any exhalation valves
Exhalation valves are an outdated technology. Today, by using breathable fabrics such as 3D mesh, they can easily be dispensed with. Depending on the mask, the surface occupied by the valve represents 5 to 10% of the filtering surface. It therefore opposes inspiration. The valves are generally placed on the sides of the mask and not in the axis of the mouth, which means that the exhaled air is not powerful enough to move the valve, so it remains in the mask and creates condensation. The brands use them mainly to offer a specific filter that “captive” users are obliged to buy from them at crazy prices. Valves are also expensive and polluting plastic parts and are the main source of after-sales (breakage and loss). Finally, they do not protect others if the mask wearer has the Covid, as the exhaled air is not filtered
Finally, Frogmask, handmade in a workshop downtown Paris, cost me almost the same price as a Vogmask made in South Korea, delivered to San Francisco by boat and then airshipped to France… not to mention the carbon footprint!
Frogmask anti-pollution mask brand expansion
Since my masks got listed at Nature & Découverte in september 2021, I had to change workshop because the one downtown Paris could not produce the requested quantities in a quite short leatime. This is how I moved the production to Lyon.
What I remember from this crazy adventure:
- From a problem or bad news, opportunities are born
- It’s when you’re up against a wall that you have ten times the energy to get over it
- Producing in France is not insurmountable
- You must always have confidence in yourself
In 2 years, several thousand masks have been sold, directly on the website or via French retailers! Beg 2023, I even got listed as unique bike mask at Decathlon market place! Now it’s time for my Frog to expand abroad especially trhough local distributors. I also have to better market the brand through bloggers and medias as ride apart who was the first to talk about Frogmask abroad.