The rise of fashionable face masks at the time of coronavirus

The rise of fashionable face masks at the time of coronavirus

COVID-19 is a very contagious disease, it is transmitted by droplets of saliva that we emit by talking or sneezing. For this reason, we have witnessed a boom in the market of health masks, which are considered, even by experts, the most effective barrier to contain contagions.

The combination of fashion and masks is nothing new. The first one to propose it in unsuspicious times was Gucci: it was a black tulle mask with double G crystals that was worn by singer Billie Eilish at the Grammy Awards 2020 at the end of January, when the epidemic had not yet broken out. At the end of February, Fendi put a designer mask on the market at a cost of 190 euros, which exploded a feeling of indignation shared by many on the social media.

Yet, in just a few days, when the suspicions that the epidemic would not hint at stopping were well-founded, they went off the rails. The masks are not even entirely foreign to the catwalks. Many designers have used them as fashion show accessories very often and in Asia, where the use of the mask was already well established even before the pandemic, the production of fashion masks has existed for years.

Even if these days there is still little talk of branded masks, it is not excluded that they can become a canvas for sartorial creativity and the desire to transform them into a habit, decorate them, make them more sophisticated or simply more cheerful. Above all, it is not excluded that in the future also in Europe we will be more attentive to the proliferation of viruses (not only the coronavirus) and we will end up getting used to wearing them as a practice in crowded places like public transport.

We could already envisage the birth of a huge business, followed by a new boom in the mask market. Actually, we are talking about an already exploded market that, as The Guardian writes, has allowed some fashion labels to reopen their factories when the lockdown was in its first phase. In addition, the many fashion brands that have converted their work to produce masks for health care purposes have thus consolidated a know-how that sees them ready to offer their lines of fashionable and even safe masks.

Are fashion masks worn by stars and influencers safe?

The result of this boom in designer masks is often to encourage the production of "do-it-yourself" masks without certifying their effectiveness. And the fake, pseudo-masks that don't protect are sprouting up. That's why you have to be careful.

Raise your hand if you still haven't seen one of the thousands of advertisements that invade the social networks and sites that we navigate the image of the new "trikini" for the summer of 2020, or swimsuit + mask in coordinated fabric. Honestly, the idea of being at the beach wearing the mask all the time is terrible (do we want to talk about the suntan mark that could leave on our face?) but above all the masks are an individual protection device to be used with attention and knowledge of the facts to try to stem the spread of coronavirus and no longer just a fashionable accessory. Complicit in fact some VIPs and socialites, even before it became a "must-have" the protective mask had become an object of desire by young people who used it as a metaphor, very powerful, to hide and dare to be what they really feel they are. Just think of the Italian music artist Myss Keta who, with her face behind a mask, has been singing for some years: "Not having a face always allows you to tell the truth". So, in the last few months - when the coronavirus was still just "the strange Chinese virus" - the designer masks had registered a surge in sales worldwide (+147% according to the Lyst fashion platform), also driven by the recent appearance of Billie Eilish at the Grammy 2020 with a Gucci signature mask, in black tulle and double G crystals, as mentioned above. Also in great demand is the Off-White mask, in black cotton with the white print of the brand logo on the front; the one with a typical Louis Vuitton "monogram" print and Marcelo Burlon's "black wings" model, black, in cotton with coloured print. Not to mention the Fendi mask, in pure silk in the typical colours of the fashion house, on sale at a price of 190 euros each and sold-out for weeks.

All this happened before the emergency, before the coronavirus became a pandemic and killed over 250,000 people in the world and before the obligation to leave the house with the mask alone. No wonder, then, if you now throw yourself headlong into this business, especially since at the moment the excuse of "I can't find the surgical ones in the pharmacy and if they are available they have exorbitant prices" is still valid, with the result, however, of encouraging the production of "do-it-yourself" masks without certifications attesting their effectiveness or even fakes. In order to be effective as a prevention, the masks must in fact have an approved filtering system (at the moment there are only two models that conform to the standards and FFP2 and FFP3 are used in surgery), something that those sewn at home with scraps of fabric or those purchased but always made of fabric do not always guarantee. Moreover, the rule that they are disposable is still valid and even the fact that they can be machine washed is not an assurance that they are actually sterile. "Even the eye wants its share and if the accessory has to become part of our everyday life, it has to be at least nice to look at", says someone. But is this really necessary? Maybe not.

The boom in the mask market could continue even after lockdown. Will we see them as a new must-have accessory?

Unfortunately, the mask boom has exploded mainly as hospitals fill up, increasing the need for personal protective equipment for healthcare professionals. This, of course, did not rule out the possibility that demand would also increase for everyone else. The soaring demand for masks had to deal with a rarefied market, both in Italy and internationally, and also subject to fraud and speculation, which pushed many companies to reconvert their production systems to manufacture them. Especially fashion companies.

Today, wearing the mask is the first gesture to protect yourself and despite the emergency seems to be slowly regressing, everything suggests that you will have to wear it for much longer. It is not possible to say for how much longer we will all need it, obligatorily or even just to feel safer and the transition from pharmacies to fashion stores is already a reality.

The mask, in any case, will be the accessory for summer 2020. Many fashion houses have aimed at models with the logo like Louis Vuitton, others have thought of writing the brand at the mouth level like Balenciaga.

Do you and your language exchange friends wear the classic blue masks, or have you bought masks made by famous brands? Do you think that wearing fashionable masks is a temporary fashion or will it become a habit even after the coronavirus? Let us know your opinions in the comments.

Written by: Martina Sassi, Staff Writer Language Exchange