The thing about a global pandemic is that luxury is…well, a luxury. When deciding which non-essentials to add to one’s cart, we’re all choosing a little bit more carefully.
FINO is a Philippine brand that has been around for over twenty years, quietly putting out finely crafted leathergoods in elegant designs, most of which are wrought in soft calfskin leather. Like many other brands, they’ve also started producing a line of protective masks.
So why buy a calfskin leather mask for everyday pandemic wear? “I call it a piece of responsible luxury,” says Luis Espiritu, FINO’s fashion consultant.
First of all, he says, not only are the masks made by local artisans, but the new Vinta collection also features strongly Filipino design elements. These newest additions to FINO’s well-received La Mascherina line of leather masks feature geometric patterns that recall the patterns on traditional vinta sails.
What you see is the stylish La Mascherina cowhide shell, but inside each mask hides a high-quality foam filter thermo-sewn inside fabric liners. Additionally (and importantly for COVID-19 protection), the leather shell molds perfectly to one’s face for a soft, snug fit. “I’m a surgeon, and a biker,” explains Rommel Bautista, who together with his wife, Rose Ann, owns FINO. “So these masks are nothing new to me, and I understand their utility. The filters that we use can’t be penetrated easily by microbes.”
Utility and style are already two important things, but it’s what happens behind the scenes that distinguishes the brand even more. While FINO has earned a following among discerning shoppers, the company’s founders, Rommel and Rose Ann Bautista, have never publicized their corporate philosophy and fair employment practices. Apart from paying fair wages and housing, health and other allowances, FINO’s employees and artisans have access to a workers’ fund, which includes provisions for educational assistance for their families.
“We are trying to be optimistic with this move and hopefully inspire people…to look at the brighter side of things despite pandemic conditions,” says Luis, “to react positively instead of going with downslope of emotions or succumb to anxiety and fear, [and to] have a sense of pride in our local products that they can be universal in appeal — that local is global.”