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The Evolution Of Masks: From Protective Gear To Fashion Accessory

Face masks which were earlier used by people as a protective gear against the rising pollution in cities are now no longer just a safety accessory but have become a fashion accessory thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic which made masks, the new normal.

During the initial few days of the pandemic and consequent warnings issued by governments all over the world medical stores and suppliers found it difficult to cater to the sudden spike in demand for masks. However, gradually big brands and fashion designers saw the opportunity to capitalize over the situation and were quick in tapping in and started manufacturing masks in different styles from bright designs for a colourful look to dark subdued tones for a more sober, professional look. As a result, the face masks now serve a twin purpose, i.e. to keep people safe and at the same time enabling them to showcase their individual style. The use of masks as a fashion accessory was also unintentionally predicted before Covid-19 was declared as a pandemic, back in February 2020 by the French fashion designer Marine Serre who had debuted a collection of designer face masks at Paris Fashion Week, describing her work as “future wear”.

Social media gives us a good glimpse into how the humble mask, an accessory meant only for protection has evolved into a fashion trend. Scrolling through social media, one can find tons of posts of bride-grooms wearing designer masks or colour coordinated masks which compliment their outfits and enhance their look. A clutch of popular brands like Allen Solly, Peter England, FabIndia, etc has started to make washable masks with printed fine fabrics which can be mixed and matched with any style of garments. 

This trend hasn’t only added a new hemisphere to modern-day fashion but has also come as a boon for the brands and fashion designers who were being burdened by the economic pain of the lockdowns due to the pandemic. Purchasing one doesn’t only help in protecting yourself and upping your fashion game, but also is providing struggling fashion houses and brands with an alternate source of revenue. “We intend to escalate production in response to the growing demand for what is effectively a reliable, efficient and low-cost precautionary measure. The production of face masks also helps create livelihood within our supply base,” said a Fabindia spokesperson. Apart from big brands and fashion houses, the high demand for face masks has also become a new means of livelihood for those who were robbed of due to the lockdowns initiated by governments across the world. “This is what we fell back on as a result of the pandemic. With this new venture, we can afford to make ends meet, as business slows down for us,” says Olasupo, a Nigerian designer working in Abuja.

Just like masks, many of the fashion accessories we use today had been born out of utility like the popular blue jeans which were initially designed for miners who required durable apparel to wear while they were at work or sunglasses which were initially worn by people as a measure to protect their eyes from the rays of the sun. 

As the Covid-19 pandemic spreads without any vaccine to combat it, face masks are definitely here to stay, however, their evolution into a fashion trend may help people accept and come to terms with the post-pandemic way of living as well get rid of the ceaseless anxiety caused by it.

Feature Image Credits: Times of India

Abhinandan Kaul

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