Face Masks: From Drab To Fab

Will masks become a part of your wardrobe… Forever?

“Honestly, the blue masks are kind of ugly and the black ones are too hot. If somebody made a mask that was stylish AND comfortable, I’d definitely buy it.”

Tina Gupta  (SAS senior)

As we grow used to the way COVID-19 has changed our lives, face masks are becoming an integral part of our daily outfits. More than 50 countries around the world have made it mandatory to wear a face mask while in public. With fears of second waves of infection, it seems like masks will be here to stay for quite some time.

Face masks have already been commonly worn in some Asian countries for years, to protect against pollution, the common flu, and even as a fashion statement. It’s been a trend among South Korean youths for some time, with celebrities such as the world-famous boy band BTS contributing to the popularity.

BTS stars Jungkook spotted wearing a facemask in Seoul’s Gimpo airport. Korean celebrities wearing facemasks have played a role in making the trend more popular. Photos from koreaboo.com and by JTBC PLUS/Imazins via Getty Images.

Historically, Asian face mask culture originated 100 years ago in Japan due to the last major pandemic, the 1918 Spanish flu. After that, a number of other influenza pandemics repeatedly struck Asia, and there was a drastic increase of pollution in some countries like China. These factors have made face masks mainstream in these Asian countries’ cultures. With today’s pandemic requiring the rest of the world to wear masks, who’s to say it won’t become normalized everywhere else too? Here in Singapore, the government is threatening a minimum fine of $300 for being caught walking in public without a mask on. Nobody wants to get fined, and because nobody can truly predict when the end of COVID-19 will come, masks are definitely something we will continue to deal with for a while. 

Designers around the world have taken it upon themselves to turn boring masks into stylish accessories. One example of this is the Vietnamese fashion designer Do Quyen Hoa who has created a collection of hand-embroidered masks from her studio in Hanoi. Despite it being mandatory there to wear a mask in public there, she’d noticed how not everyone was abiding by the rules. So she made her eye-catching creations, in the hopes that it would convince more people to wear their masks on a daily basis. 

Do Quyen Hoa has created a collection of hand-embroidered masks from her studio in Hanoi. Photo from wionews.com.

On the more eccentric side, French costume designer Sophie Cochevelou has used her skills to create some truly unique masks. Based in London, she’s a graduate of the prestigious Central Saint Martins University. Featuring Barbie heads, gemstones, pearls, legos, and more, her exaggerated pieces are more for artistic expression than everyday use. However, due to the popularity of her creations, she’s produced a line of slightly more modest masks which she is selling on her online store (photo on the right). 

French costume designer Sophie Cochevelou has used her skills to create some truly unique masks. Photos from @sophiecochevelou.

In Los Angeles, swimwear company Dippin’ Daisy’s has created stylish masks to match their bikinis. For every fabric mask sold by the company, they’re donating another mask of the same type to a first responder in the U.S. They have already donated over 5000 masks every week and continue to contribute.

Photo from @rose_machado and @dippindaisys.

Even Kim Kardashian has released a line of fabric masks through her undergarment brand Skims, with earthy colors to match all skin tones. They too are donating their masks, with 10,000 units having been handed out to charities in the U.S.

Photos by @skims.

It’s safe to say that masks have created a new business opportunity in the fashion industry, and higher-end brands are catching on to the trend. Off-white have created a mask that is priced at a steep $89. And on an even higher end of the scale, Fendi is selling rudimentary-looking masks for an impressive $370. But is capitalizing off a crisis really right?

Images from END clothing and Luisaviaroma

“They shouldn’t exploit a crisis to make a profit. If they have the materials, they should focus on production and distribution to those who need it rather than charging whack amounts of money” — Sanya Lokur (SAS senior)

And indeed, that’s exactly what some of the biggest luxury brands are doing right now. Louis Vuitton, Prada, and others have been focusing their efforts on helping those at the forefront of the pandemic, creating thousands of masks for first-responders. 

Billie Eilish sporting a fashionable glittery Gucci mask at the 2020 Grammy Awards, back in January. It seems like she was ahead of the curve, wearing a mask for fashion before it was necessary for protection. Image from Popsugar.

It’s clear that masks are here to stay for a while. As so many countries have made them mandatory to wear, creators all over the world have used this as an opportunity for self-expression. From local artisans to big fashion brands, they’ve put their own twist on the required accessories and have transformed them into more than just a drab piece of protection. As masks will continue to be released by the day, we can look forward to having more and more options to choose from. Face masks don’t have to be an annoying requirement for our outings. They can instead become a fun way to spice up our outfits, and be used as a glamorous addition to our wardrobes.

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