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Most of us busy urbanites are super-focused on getting through our days the best we can. This might include waking up 2 hours earlier to exercise and eat a healthy breakfast. Maybe a spot of Yoga, Tai Chi, or a Barre class before you shower, dress, breakfast and bound out of the door.

Whatever your morning routine, your clothes are carefully chosen to convey professionalism and a tasteful neutrality, with just that slight touch of whimsy to personalise the look – maybe your coveted ‘Yeezy Boost 350’ sneakers, or a quirky hand-embroidered ‘Macon & Lesquoy’ brooch placed just-so. Your cherished Céline (for women) or Ami (for men) coat completes your sartorial armour of resistance against the pulls and pressures of the daily grind.

Or does it? Have you fully considered how to arm yourself to face the day if you’ve not taken into account the ravaging effects of bad city air? Think about all that grey air you breathe in on your way to work, or when zipping between meetings. What is your armour of resistance against daily air pollution?

In its latest 2016 update on air pollution levels, released just day before, World Health Organisation has observed that ‘more than 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the WHO limits (Read report here). While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most acutely impacted.

A telling proof of these WHO figures was the air pollution levels in Paris yesterday when this feature was being produced. We’ve already talked a lot about Plume labs, our favorite pollution reporting app that tracks and forecasts the air quality in over 200 cities worldwide. According to the Plume labs team the pollution levels were very high and the recommendations was to avoid or postpone outdoor activities. You can see the the result in the picture below.

When you see reports like this, you understand why the Paris City Council decided to make the Champs-Élysées car-free on the first Sunday of every month. So from this month onwards, the most famous road in the world will become a pedestrian paradise at least once per month.

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Left: Pollution forcast www.plumelabs.com – Right: Les Champs Elysées, 8 May 2016 @AFP

But also in London the new Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has started to realize his promise to become the city’s “greenest Mayor ever” by tackling the air pollution issues. And high time too considering the startling pollution figures the city saw in January and March 2016. According to The Guardian, citizens there believe air pollution is the biggest health threat they face. But London is not alone in this, according to the new WHO data more than 40 cities and towns across UK are breaching safety limits for air pollution.

According to this new WHO data, levels of ultra-fine particles of less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5s) are highest in India, which has 16 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities. Just like Paris, the state of Delhi in India has declared the 22nd of every month to be a car free day. Though this move is still to take off in a big way as it’s not state enforced, it’s still a step in the right direction and has been received well by people.

So overall, urban air pollution levels increased by 8% in the past 5 years globally. But there is silver lining too in the WHO report. China, which has been plagued by acute air pollution, has improved its air quality since 2011 and now has only five cities in the top 30 most polluted cities. Well done China!

So enough of the problem sharing dear UrbanMeisters! We are about solutions to pollution problems. So will we just sit by waiting for governments to act upon these ground realities with new environmental policies? No sir! We at UrbanMeisters are pro-action people- we’ll act on how we, the busy urbanites, can manage to keep air pollution at bay.

Anti-pollution face masks are an efficacious option to help breathe better & cleaner in urban centres. We recommended these  in our article feature on Outdoor running in the city. While they are a ubiquitous sight on the roads in Chinese cities, and fast picking in big Indian cities, they are far from being accepted in Europe. The thing is, for any solution to be accepted, it has to be the right combination of efficiency, protection and suitability to our urban lifestyle. Apart from the Vogmask which we presented earlier, there are not many options in the pollution masks area. But we have discovered a young and conscientious new French start-up that may have just cracked this winning solution combination.

 

Excited to present Le Lys Paris- the very first Luxury anti-pollution face-masks

Engineered to offer the highest levels of protection comparable to the best masks in the market, Le Lys Paris masks go one very essential step further. They bring style to the fight against pollution! These masks are designed in Paris and hand-made by experienced luxury-goods craftspeople at an atelier in Vendée, France. The brand uses fine French cotton and silk especially sourced from the Sentier district in Paris, historically known for its multicultural textile and garment manufacturing. A supremely practical safeguard, the Le Lys face mask is also designed to serve as a fashionable accessory to the wardrobe of the stylish urban warrior.

Welcome to our tête-à-tête with the creator of Le Lys Paris, Alix Bouxaguet.

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Creator of Le Lys Paris, Alix Bouxaguet

 

How did Le Lys Paris come into being?

Alix: Le Lys Paris has been created because I felt the need for anti-pollution masks for urban dwellers that went beyond pure functionality. Of course there are very good products catering to real-estate professionals, surgeons and so on, but not for the style-conscious urban citizen. Le Lys Paris creates comfortable, fashionable and effective products to protect against air pollution and other particles such as pollen and sand.

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Who all are a part of the talented Le Lys team? What are your professional backgrounds?

Alix: We are four French entrepreneurs. There’s me, Alix Bouxaguet, and I’ve had a diverse career spanning France and Asia. There’s Dimitri Romanyszyn, our financial wizard, his background spans roles in France, Spain and the UK. Julien Karic is our chief designer and web developer. And very importantly, there is Amaury Rommeleare, our product engineer.

 

Was there a key moment that got you interested in countering air pollution?

Alix: It was a combination of all our experiences really, some of us have lived in Asia and experienced issues with air pollution. Other have relatives that suffer from allergies such as pollen. In all, our team came together because of this shared need to combat pollution, but in a way that was in line with our personal image and style quotient.

 

Who do your masks cater to? Tell us all about your materials, fits and finishes.

Alix: All our masks are made in France, with French materials sourced in Sentier, Paris. That is where we distinguish ourselves from other masks in the market, as proudly representing French artisanship and quality.

The first collection has three lines:

  • Prestige, made with fine cotton

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  • Elegance, made with satin silk

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  • Crystal, also made with satin silk and embellished with Swarovski crystals.

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All the lines are for men and women and available in 2 sizes.

We are in the exciting process presently of developing specific lines for babies, children and sports users – this will largely expand the base of quality and style-conscious customers our products can help.

 

Who designs the masks, and where does the inspiration for your designs and colours come from?

Alix: We work with Parisian designers who select the best materials in Sentier, Paris. Their brief was to design the most beautiful and luxurious anti-pollution masks possible. The designs and colours are inspired by the history of France and its royal houses that have symbolized luxury and elegance for several centuries.

 

What came first – the chicken or the egg; in this case design or function, when developing your products?

Alix: Protection and comfort are the basis of our designs, we first paid heed to the protection and comfort demands of urban lifestyles before working on aesthetics. But at the end, we are glad to present a high-quality, beautiful amalgam of form and function with our range of Le Lys Paris masks.

 

Tell us a bit about your elegant logo?

Alix: The logo is a coming together of two very potent symbols – the Fleur De Lys, and the Lotus flower. The Fleur De Lys is the symbol of French royalty. And with our insistence on using only the finest of local resources and talent, it fits perfectly with our ethos.

The Lotus flower on the other hand, signifies purity and pristineness, whatever its surrounding. This fits with our vision of breathing pristine, clean air in our polluted urban environments, but without sacrificing style and elegance.

 

Why were you keen to keep all the production elements and design in France?

Alix: Le Lys finds its inspiration in French tradition and history. In addition, Le Lys Paris is a luxury brand that we likened to haute couture. And like haute couture, our masks call for high-craftsmanship, and that is why we work with French sourcing companies and workshops that are partners of brands such as Louis Vuitton, Balmain and Kenzo, thereby guaranteeing the impeccable quality of a Le Lys mask.

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How are your masks different/ better than what’s already out there? Why should the urban dweller opt for a Le Lys mask?

The difference between Le Lys masks and others is simply that Le Lys Paris fits the lifestyle demands of stylish urban citizens, as opposed to the purely functional needs that other masks in the market fulfil- of industries like real estate, construction and medicine. We’ve all seen masks that make a person look like they’re sick, or worse still – evil, like Dr. Lecter from Silence of the Lambs, or Darth Vader from Star Wars! :)

Jokes aside though, we’ve prioritised comfort and aesthetics, alongside offering world-standard protection. Our masks are ecologically responsible, washable (unlike the one-time use-and-throw masks). We try to make ecologically responsible choices wherever possible, and recycle all we can. We work closely with partners who use eco-friendly materials.

What’s more, each product manufactured is quality-tested by our engineers before we award it a certificate of authenticity, and an authenticity code that offers a one-year guarantee. So the urban Le Lys Paris mask user can protect themselves against pollution, stylishly and without littering.

 

How do you convince people who feel your masks don’t look hard-core enough though? Some people equate the mask’s efficiency with looking like Darth Vader. How do you answer such sceptics?

A: Phew, that was a long question! But you make a very pertinent point. ‘Dark Vader’-looking masks claim to offer the best protection, not just against air particles, but some also against nuclear particles or virus. These masks have been designed for specific industry professionals and not for urban users.

Just as people do not wear sunglasses made for construction workers to protect themselves in general sunlight situations, the same way, we are convinced that urban users will prefer to use products with protection standards specifically adapted to their environment. And with a Le Lys Paris mask, they additionally benefit from the improved comfort and aesthetics we offer.

 

So comparing to market leaders 3M and Vogmask, do you offer the same level of protection?

Alix: Our filtering media is produced in partnership with the leading German firm Hollingsworth and Vose, a global manufacturer of advanced materials used in filtration. Our masks filter at least 95% of PM2.5 particles that is equivalent to N95 standards. Vogmask and 3M have different lines with different levels of protection. For instance, one of the best-sellers in China- 3M’s Nexcare, does not meet any air pollution standards.

 

Have you tested for outdoor sports, like running and cycling?

Alix: We have tested the mask for several hours in tennis games, for instance, but we will launch a specific Sports Line soon that’ll cater more specifically to the needs of the sports enthusiast.

 

What has been the most difficult marketing challenge to overcome so far?

Alix: The main challenge has been what we discussed a while earlier- convincing anti-pollution mask users that our products are able to protect them to a similar degree as the Darth Vader/Dr. Lecter looking ones.

 

Do you treat your masks like a fashion accessory, and change them up for various occasions?

Alix: Well, we’ve styled it as a fashion accessory, and it can definitely be used as one. The range extends to different materials and colours to transition across the day, from workwear to cocktail hour to the after-party!

 

What is your best-selling mask?

Alix: Our Night-blue satin silk one.

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Tell us some of the efforts underway to engage more with your customers, and widen the buzz for your products.

Alix: We aim to expand our presence on social media and amp up the excitement using star branding – look out for it! We are also planning to create “The Most Expensive Mask in the World”, we will keep your Urban Meisters followers updated about this project…

 

What is your vision for Le Lys’ future? What can we hope to see next?

Alix: We envision a surge in interest for well-designed Le Lys Paris products as more and more unban denizens decide to protect themselves against air-pollutants in their cities. Luxury pollution-protection accessories will form a new sub-domain of luxury and the fashion industry. And we want to position ourselves at the forefront of this category with our undeniable credentials in fine French aesthetics, materials and craftsmanship.

 

Finally, how and where do your products sell? Stores, and/or online? Do you ship worldwide? What is the price range for your price?

Alix: We presently retail Le Lys Paris masks contained in stylish pouches and costing 115€ and upwards. You can find them at Gab & Jo on 28, Rue Jacob, Paris, and at the Hotel Le Six on 14, Rue Stanislas, Paris. We will be launching five new sales points this summer in Paris, and will expand to retail in some Asian markets like China, Japan and South Korea before the end of the year. Of course, they are also available through our website lelysparis.com and come with free shipping worldwide.

 

So UrbanMeisters that’s Le Lys luxury pollution masks for you! The winning combination of protection against air pollution and style that every urban needs and demands. With  Le Lys, you can breathe easy with flair & panache!

 

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