Photo: East Eight Co.
Masks from East Eight Co.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, designers, artists, and sewing hobbyists have taken to their sewing machines to fill the demand of masks for the public to wear. Pittsburgh City Paper
is taking a look behind the scenes and highlighting local mask makers.
Diana Misetic and Dino Misetic, CEOs and co-founders of East Eight Co.
Shadyside and McKees Rocks
What led you to start making masks?
I partnered with my son, Dino Misetic, hoping to make an impact in two very meaningful ways. I wanted to combine our skills — mine in the fashion design field and production of high-quality apparel, and Dino’s years of manufacturing and marketing — to create a company that would create a positive impact in two very meaningful ways.
First, we would create a classic mask that would be both substantial in high-quality and focused on fit. Our goal was to reduce as much gap between mask and face.
The second goal was to bring manufacturing to Pittsburgh and support our local economy by creating skilled jobs for displaced workers. Our goal is to create enough momentum where each of our team members will have the ability to earn at least $15 an hour. A lot of people continue to be out of work and by expanding we can teach a new skill in lieu of their pending employment status. Our goal is to create a self-sustaining company that will have a local and national impact through infection prevention and jobs with fair wages.
We are a women-owned business, and both Dino and myself are immigrants. Knowing how difficult it was to create our current life from nothing when we came to the U.S.A in 1994, we want to create a workforce that will help everyone especially minorities and immigrants that have seen difficulty finding jobs even under normal circumstances.
What considerations did you make when designing and developing the mask?
The mask has a classic retro design but the fit has been much improved. We wanted to make sure that it was made with high quality and durability. The mask is washable and features an extra-wide and long nose bridge so that it can sit firmly and comfortably on most faces. By adding the extra strength and width to the nose bridge, with proper fit, the mask will prevent foggy glasses!
Another goal was the price. We did not skip out on quality and are maintaining the price of $15 per mask to reflect our goal of hourly wages for our team members. East Eight Co. masks are worth well over that amount with the amount of craft that goes into them but we also wanted them to be attainable and wearable for a long time.
What is your manufacturing process and have you adjusted the scale of mask production since starting?
We are a Made in the U.S.A company and want to maintain that at all costs. By insourcing from Pittsburgh, we have created a manufacturing facility that will go beyond masks. Mask production has been going well and at a steady pace and we are introducing some new and innovative soft goods and PPE in the coming months in order to expand the market, and therefore create more jobs at better wages for residents of Pittsburgh.
Custom work is now being accepted and restaurants and businesses can have custom-designed masks, aprons, and even scrubs to suit their needs. We are increasing our equipment capacity and have recently acquired a laser cutter to expand the possibilities of manufacture and design. As counterintuitive as it is, we are staying away from 3-D printers and a lot of automation in the hope of bringing back manufacturing that involves hands and people, which translates into skills and training opportunities.
What challenges have you encountered while mask making?
Photo: East Eight Co.
Reusable broadcloth mask in black from East Eight Co.
The market is saturated with masks. There are plenty of single-piece mass-produced masks made with cheap fabric sourced from abroad. The prices are relatively close to our own but lack the tactile feel and look of a quality made product. So the major challenge is advertising our mission and goals of quality, locally made masks designed to improve the local economy and welfare of residents over the cheap abundant masks designed to make a profit.
What fabric designs do you use?
The design is a classic/retro style mask that has been refitted. Think baggy pants turned into slim fitted jeans. The material used provides breathability and we have introduced MERV 16 rated double-layered filters to be used with our masks. Of course, all of the cloth masks are designed to protect others from your respiratory system i.e. coughs sneezes, etc. We are under no illusion that wearing a cloth mask will totally protect you from catching a virus. HOWEVER, if everyone wore a mask we can create enough time for the science/medical community to create treatments to either defeat the virus and/or reduce the death rate. With that factor in mind, our design is made to be both comfortable and fitted to reduce gaping around nose and face and be easy to wear without suffocating or creating as little stress on the wearer as possible.
Can people purchase your masks, and if so, where?
Our online store is easteightco.com
and masks can be purchased there in bulk or as retail. We also accept custom orders where we can design a mask specifically for your business whether it’s a color, pattern, or branding. And please wash your hands and be mindful of others.