Will.i.am and Honeywell’s new “Xupermask.” Courtesy.
American technology and manufacturing company Honeywell, and Will.i.am, Black Eyed Peas frontman and perennial entrepreneur, are teaming up to create the Xupermask, a high-tech version of the pandemic’s most in-demand accessory, the face mask.
Xupermask is an adjustable face mask, made out of skin-friendly, medical grade silicone, and features three dual speed fans and a Honeywell High-efficiency Particulate Arresting (HEPA) filtration system. Beyond its protective features, it includes noise cancelling audio and microphone capabilities, bluetooth and LED day glow lights. The accessory will be available on the Xupermask site in the US, Canada, UK and EU on April 8. It retails for $299.
If it sounds like something out of a superhero movie, that’s because it is — kind of. Jose Fernandez, who designed costumes for the likes of Batman, Spiderman and Tron, as well as attire for Daft Punk and the newest NASA space suit, is Xupermask’s chief creative officer.
With Xupermask, Will.i.am and Honeywell make the argument not only that masks are here to stay, but that there’s a consumer appetite for masks that do more. Once such masks become available, Will.i.am thinks people will choose to wear masks because of all the new luxuries provided to them.
“iPhone to iPod. Right, so, you got the iPod, and you wanted it to do more. Somebody said, ‘imagine you could talk on this thing,’” Will.i.am said. “… People have companies that are on iPhones, and I think there’s the same potential with a mask — being an ecosystem that opens up for people to add and complete the thought.”
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic saw many fashion brands begin producing masks. At first, proceeds often went to charity, but the mask market quickly became big business. According to Grandview Research, the fashion face mask market (having been valued at $465.4 million in 2019) is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 22.7 percent from 2020 to 2027. Off-White’s mask variations could be found floating around resale sites at prices of up to $1,000. However, with vaccinations on the rise, the category’s future is in doubt: it remains to be seen if brands will continue to sell face masks in the months to come, not to mention if the category is set for growth. It is also unclear how far into the future consumers will want to wear masks, and how long mask mandates will remain in place — several US states have already rolled back restrictions.
A wearable-tech enthusiast, Will.i.am sees the Xupermask as not only a protection device, but a statement piece in line with sci-fi influences seen on the runway from designers like Balmain. The target customer, he said, is “the sneakerhead — the collector.”
“If you like Y-3 shoe design, you’re gonna like the Xupermask,” he added. “If you like that Fendi sock shoe, you’re probably going to like the Xupermask. If you like the Nike self-lacing shoe, you’re probably going to like the Xupermask, because they have the same design aesthetics.”
Businesses, governments, and industrial customers make up the bulk of Honeywell’s base. The partnership blends Honeywell’s technical prowess with Will.i.am’s understanding of fashion and the consumer, according to John Waldron, president and chief executive of Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions. “[Will] is trying to bring fashion and more tech to a category that’s actually not very fashionable or high tech.”