Designer flu masks put the personal touch on panic

Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:23pm EDT
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By Bill Berkrot

NEW YORK (Reuters) - If a flu pandemic is coming, but you have to get out and about, there is now a creative way to express fear.

That seems to be the approach at DIGO, the New York ad agency behind a line of humorous designer masks that will allow people to stand out from the crowd as they attempt to fend off the swine flu virus.

"When we saw swine flu panic taking hold, we felt that re-envisioning the face mask, this icon of fear, into a canvas for more creative, playful sentiments was a way to say we have nothing to fear but fear itself," said Mark DiMassimo, DIGO's CEO and chief creative officer.

"Life goes on, enjoy yourself, express yourself. If you want to be careful, don't make that all that life is about," said DiMassimo, who envisions an initial run of 25,000 masks for $100 each along with a certificate authenticating them as part of the first printing.

A variation on the masks that may become ubiquitous on the streets of U.S. cities before the flu epidemic runs its course, the DIGO version comes in six whimsical styles, including DiMassimo's personal favorite, one that makes it appear the wearer is smoking a cigar through the mask.

Other masks have bright red lips, a pink pig snout with red circle and slash signifying no pigs, a black handlebar mustache, the words "It's not me, it's you" and its opposite, "It's not you, it's me."

"We're basically saying that something functional can also be a form of self-expression," said DiMassimo, who insists the masks, while humorous, will be medical grade.

The masks will be sold on DIGO's website before shifting to a special website. Ultimately, they might be available in stores at a lower price, DiMassimo said.   Continued...

<p>A man poses with a DIGO mask in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/DIGO/Handout</p>