From Radiation-Proof Boxers to Silver-Lined Face Masks, an L.A. Company Pivots for the Pandemic

Lambs co-founder and CEO Arthur Menard de Calenge got an urgent message several weeks ago. A customer who also happens to be a doctor said the hospital he works at was completely out of N95 masks and had run out of surgical masks, too. Doctors were coming to work wearing whatever they could find to cover their faces — ski masks, a scarf, bandana, whatever.

The doctor had started creating homemade masks for himself with his sister, who would sew them, using a layer of Lambs' silver-lined "WaveStopper" fabric, along with a layer of sheets that have very dense knits.

Since silver has been shown in studies to have some antiviral properties, "this was the best homemade solution he could create," Menard de Calenge said, "and so he actually reached out to see if we could help in providing more fabric to create those homemade masks for other doctors and the hospital."


That's how a Santa Monica-based company that first started selling silver-lined boxer briefs to shield men's testicles from purported cell phone and Wi-Fi radiation repurposed its L.A. factory to produce non-medical grade masks to battle COVID-19. The company is one of a slew of businesses in Los Angeles and beyond that have repurposed what they are doing and pivoted to address the pandemic.

From Radiation-Proof Jocks to Silver-Lined Face Masks, an L.A. Company Pivots for the Pandemic assets.rebelmouse.io

Lambs — which now also sells silver-lined beanies, T-shirts and women's underwear — is offering reusable and washable face masks made to specs provided by Kaiser Permanente. It's also adding a lining of its "WaveStopper" fabric to the masks. The fabric contains 50% of "XSoft" silver fibers, and the masks have an inner pocket for those who want to add their own disposable filter.

Lambs uses silver for its "antiviral properties." The company cites medical studies that say the metal can help prevent the spread of viruses, though there hasn't been any testing that could prove its effectiveness in face coverings. The masks have not been FDA approved and aren't a substitute for an N95 surgical or procedural mask, Lambs said.

The Science Inc.-backed company began recalibrating its manufacturing to focus on masks just as L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the "L.A. Protects initiative." The city is urging local manufacturers to make an estimated five million masks needed for essential workers over the next few weeks.

Lambs' masks are being sold for $18 and can also be donated to frontline workers in need. Essential workers can buy the masks at-cost for $10 online and employers can purchase them in bulk. Lambs says it will prioritize orders for essential workers.

Photo courtesy of Lambs

The company began deliveries last week, shipping out a couple thousand masks. Since then, Garcetti has issued an emergency order requiring all those who are working at or visiting an essential business to wear a face covering. Non-medical essential businesses can refuse to serve a person who is not wearing a face covering. And employers are required to provide face coverings to their employees or reimburse the employees for their cost.

To date, the company said it has "thousands of orders" and has hired two more workers to help ramp up production and shipping. Lambs is abiding by social distancing requirements at its factory, which is currently producing a little over 1,000 a week. It expects to get to 5,000 a week soon. With additional staff, if they can be safely fit into the space, Menard de Calenge said hitting 10,000 weekly could be possible.

As for the doctor who first messaged Lambs about help with making masks, he got the first ones off the production line.

__

Do you have a story that needs to be told? My DMs are open on Twitter @latams. You can also email me at tami(at)dot.la, or ask for my Signal.

The Conversation

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Join us on Thursday, July 16th for the first edition of "Female Founders Stories, to Live and Work in L.A." with chief host and correspondent Kelly O'Grady. Our first discussion will feature WeeCare co-founder and CEO Jessica Chang as well as DropLabs CEO Susan Paley.

The series will feature one-on-one discussions with top women leaders and entrepreneurs here in the L.A. startup community. We'll explore how these women got started and triumphed over challenges, talk about moments of success and discuss what they love most about living and working in LA.

Register here - space is limited!

Here are the latest updates on news affecting Los Angeles' startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for more.

Today:

  • Tesla shares soar, Fisker rumored to go public, Karma gets $100m
  • Facebook issues crash TikTok, Pinterest, Spotify
Read more Show less

An Amazon spokesperson said Friday afternoon that an email ordering employees to delete TikTok was sent in error. The company declined to provide further explanation for how the directive was sent.

"This morning's email to some of our employees was sent in error," the spokesperson said. "There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok."

Amazon's had earlier sent an email saying that it was requiring employees to remove the popular video-sharing app TikTok from their mobile devices immediately due to security concerns.

"Due to security risks, the TikTop app is no longer permitted on mobile devices that access Amazon email," the company said Friday in an email to employees.

TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular social media apps in the world but government officials and business leaders are becoming increasingly wary of the Chinese-owned company.

The U.S. military has already barred its members from using TikTok and the federal government is considering a broader ban out of concerns that the Chinese government may be using the app to spy on Americans.

Earlier this month, India announced it will ban TikTok and other popular Chinese apps citing threats to "sovereignty and integrity."

Amazon did not provide details on its concerns in the employee email. We've reached out to the company to comment and will update this story when we hear back.

A TikTok spokesperson said the company is "fully committed to respecting the privacy of users," in a statement to the Times.

"While Amazon did not communicate to us before sending their email, and we still do not understand their concerns, we welcome a dialogue so we can address any issues they may have and enable their team to continue participating in our community."

Last month, a new privacy feature in iOS 14 revealed TikTok was accessing users' clipboard content despite promising to discontinue the practice last year.

This story first appeared on GeekWire.

RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS

Trending