A Way To Stay Fashionably Healthy

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - August 12, 2009
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That’s John Yamamoto behind one of Denyse Ray’s (left) particulate respirator masks

Little did Denyse Ray know that, when she started her fashionable masks endeavor, the swine flu headlines would jump-start her business.

“Our little Website crashed because orders were coming in so rapidly,” says Ray with a smile about her lines of particulate respirator masks.

Her goal with Ease Mask is to give people options in protection from breathing in sulfur from fireworks or other toxins in the air that can be a danger to health.

“Not many people know this, but there is a mandate that says all preparedness kits should have a particulate mask in it,” Ray explains.

The reusable masks are soft and made of natural fabrics. They come in various colors with a matching waterproof pouch, in sizes from preschool-age to adult. The line expands with a Hawaiian pattern, and child-friendly patterns also are on the horizon. The masks are available at Longs, Don Quijote, Kmart and at the Blind Vendors Ohana newsstands at the airport.

“I have them in every color, in every purse,” she says.

She also offers what she calls the “bling line,” which is adorned with rhinestones and other decorations such as pearls, that can be custom ordered.

“We actually did one for a bride,” says Ray. “She had a cold. She wanted a mask and we made it beautiful for her.”

Custom-orders can include initials or company logos.

“The goal is to remove the stigma that is associated with pathogen protection, particulate protection, from one person to the next,” she says. “The sterile white has used up its time. Our tag line is ‘Air is better here.’”

The idea of fashionable particulate respirator masks came to Ray when she was called in on Sept. 11 to be a first responder and had to use her sleeve for days until they gave her a mask.

“When they finally passed one out to us, it was the kind you can get at the hardware store,” she remembers. “I thought, there is an untapped market here - women. Women like things that are pretty first, and functional.”

When she first launched her masks at the 2008 New Products Show, she sold out because people were buying them up for friends and family dealing with vog on the Big Island. She’s distributing through S & L Trading.

Another reason the masks are important to her is because her father passed away from mesothelioma.

“If I could save someone else’s dad from lung cancer, that would be really good for me.”

She appreciates the support of everyone who’s had a part in her production, especially her husband, Michael, her daughter Rashaan and granddaughter Qailah.

One of the biggest challenges she says she faces in running her business is the high cost of shipping, which she handles by making sure her she orders enough stock in advance.

Ray, who has a Ph.D. in psychology, focuses on quality control, and the future includes expanding the masks into vending machines or kiosks.

“We really would like for people to begin to think about protecting their respiratory system,” says Ray.

For more information, call 635-6548, or log on to easemask.com.

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