With a virus running rampant, you may not have thought about your wardrobe for a while. But it’s likely that you’ve mulled over what face mask to use.
The accessory of the year is one borne out of necessity and as time wears on, we’re beginning to understand how we prefer our face masks. It needs to be comfortable and breathable so that it can be worn in the relentless summer heat. And now that the coronavirus has transformed us into amateur medical experts, we now also know that the face masks we wear need to be more than mere fabric coverings – they need to have the right layering to ensure that they keep us safe from encroaching viruses. Washable, fabric face masks particularly work well because they can be reused again and again.
Additionally, a mandatory accessory doesn’t necessarily have to be drab. The coronavirus has managed to wipe away the joy of dressing up and going out, but even a basic grocery run can be a morale booster if one dresses up for it. Fashion brands know this and all over the world, ‘designer face masks’ have filtered on to the high street.
Is this capitalism, where brands have cashed in on a life-threatening, harrowing virus? Yes. But it also makes sense. Fashion retail has experienced a sharp decline due to the coronavirus. Economic instability and the fact that people need less clothes because they are not going out has led to heavy losses for the fashion industry. However, any time people do go out, they need to wear masks. Some, in an effort to combat anxiety, like to look good during their short grocery runs. They like to invest in a fun, statement mask because like we’re all beginning to realize, this virus isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
And from brands’ point of view, their clothes are probably not selling that well. Several months into a virus-infected world, they’re probably feeling the crunch right now. Why shouldn’t they try to break even with supplying face masks which are, after all, the need of the time?
There are, consequently, all sorts of face masks that a simple Google search turn up: in neon colors, embroidered, beaded, printed and even unwieldy leather ones for the luxury-loving aficionado. Closer to home, these are some of the face masks that have started making appearances, some created for retail by high-street players while others, teetering towards couture, designed for the socially distanced soirees that are going to be part of the ‘new normal’:
‘It’s going to be okay,’ declares one printed Khaadi mask. Another, shown on the brand’s Instagram page, is in a vivacious floral print. The masks, according to the brand, are triple-layered, usable for up to 10 washes, non-medical but with embedded filters.
Very savvy – and that floral print particularly is instantly recognizable as Khaadi! Anyone who has been missing wearing their latest Khaadi designs – that’s a large part of Pakistan’s population – can get a boost by wearing the masks instead.
Generation was one of the very first high-street brands to launch into face masks. Merely two weeks into Pakistan’s lockdown into the coronavirus, the ‘Generation’ fabric face masks – three-layered, printed and reusable – made their first online appearances. The brand’s CEO Khadija Rehman cites them as ‘best-sellers’.
Huma Adnan has always had a flair for accessories and over the past two years, the designer has been dabbling with different indigenous techniques under the brand, ‘Craft Stories by Huma Adnan’. Working with displaced refugees, Huma has been bringing out statement accessories and the coronavirus prompted her to venture into face masks. Her block-printed cotton masks are particularly selling well while Huma also has more formal options: embroidered cotton masks and heavier party masks worked with Swarovski crystals.
“We have added filters so that the masks are breathable and we have made sure that we follow all the technical requirements required for masks that truly protect against viruses,” says the designer.
Shamaeel Ansari’s mask collection is aptly titled ‘Masquer-aid’ because, as the designer elaborates, “The masks aid you by making you look good and also protecting you.”
According to Shamaeel, her line-up of masks, ranging from casual cottons to sports masks and couture creations, have been scientifically configured to ensure ease of wear while warding off viruses.
In ‘Catwalk Cares’, Pakistan’s first effort at a ‘Virtual Fashion Week’, Shehla Chatoor showcased a small selection of face masks that complimented her bridal-wear. The masks were veritably as elaborate as the clothes, worked with neat hand embroideries and glittering with sequins.
Weddings have generally gotten postponed due to the coronavirus but according to the designer, a few small-scale events are still taking place and brides are asking for face masks to go with their outfits! Shehla’s designs are one size fits all with the option of adjustments at the back.
“The face mask is going to be an essential accessory even at weddings for some time now,” predicts Shehla. “Even once the lockdown eases, it is likely that people will mask up for some time, as a precaution.”
Ali Xeeshan mixed and matched face masks with the designs that he showcased at ‘Catwalk Cares’, a recent effort at creating a ‘Virtual Fashion Week’. “We are making masks if clients order them but most weddings have gotten postponed due to the coronavirus,” says Ali. “Casual, personalized masks are very much in demand.”