I’ve known VFranz Bernil for almost 10 years. I actually met him in 2011 when he was studying fashion design at Lasalle College… where he now teaches! Before entering the fashion program, he was on his way to becoming a professional basketball player and he didn’t know how to sew… but fashion was his passion! In 2012, before he had even graduated, he decided to present his first fashion show. I was so impressed that I interviewed him for the blog (you can read my post here).
During that interview, he told me that he didn’t think one should wait to be done with school to put a foot in the industry. He also mentioned he was very ambitious and not scared to try. In other words, he’s always been a go-getter… and that’s why I’m not surprised to see that he has turned this very difficult situation into an opportunity to continue doing what he loves, providing for his family (he’s now a father of two) and being useful for society.
Here and all over the world, we’ve heard about many big companies who decided to use their factories and facilities to produce medical protection blouses, masks or hand sanitizer. All these initiatives are obviously amazing, but I wanted to bring attention to a smaller success story. VFranz basically reinvented himself and his company during the pandemic.
He started to think about making masks back in March, but he hesitated because he didn’t want to capitalize on the situation. At the same time, he knew that the next few months weren’t going to be easy for a fashion designer… so he decided to try it, but not before doing some research on how to make the best mask possible. He officially launched the V-Franz masks at the end of March. Right from the beginning, he had many things right : his masks had the nose metal wire (which makes a huge difference), the elastics were comfortable and the overall shape was constructed in a way that was fitted, but not too close to the face… so very breathable. I got his denim mask at that time, and it’s still one of my favourites!
Four months later, the shape has remained, but he has improved some things, like replacing the elastics with adjustable straps. But most of all, he has kept us on our toes by dropping new fabrics and prints almost every Sunday… which he always communicated via his Instagram account. The Sunday new releases (I counted 55 different masks since he started making them), the limited quantities and the social media communication is the proof that he had a vision for this venture and it wasn’t just about jumping in the mask band wagon.
A few weeks ago, I told him I thought he was winning the mask game in Montreal… and I still believe that. Not because he has sold the most units (I think Bigarade has topped him, but that’s another story…), but because he’s actually made it exciting to buy a mask by making it fashionable. And he’s accomplished that with just his family at first (his wife helped him sew the masks and deliver them while their moms babysitted), then he was able to hire a few seamstresses. Up until today V-Franz has sold about 5000 masks and even though he’s also working on his fashion line that include clothes and shoes, he doesn’t think he will stop making them. In his opinion, masks are here to stay for a good while and might even become a new normal, at least to protect others when we’re fighting a cold, and I think (hope) he’s right.
A few last news before I let you go…
- V-Franz has started to make tops, dresses and tote bags that match some of his masks, which I think is pretty cool!
- This Saturday July 18th (just in time for the new regulation that make masks or face coverings mandatory in all indoor public spaces across Quebec), he’s hosting a pop-up sale from 11am to 2pm at his atelier (160 Saint-Viateur, suite 200).
- Finally, this Sunday, he’s dropping new masks that will have removable nose wires (which will contribute to increase their lifespan) and a pocket to insert a filter, for those who feel more comfortable with one. Check it out HERE
You see what I meant by keeping things exciting…