From diamonds to sequins: How the face mask is getting a quirky makeover

A prototype of a face mask studded with diamonds, as designed by Valerie Messika
A prototype of a face mask studded with diamonds, as designed by Valerie Messika

From see-through options to sequined to word-heavy to diamond-studded options, who thought we'd be spoilt for choice?


Anamika Chatterjee

Published: Thu 25 Jun 2020, 5:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Jul 2020, 11:41 AM

Our vanity can rise to any occasion. even a pandemic. A few months ago, Covid-19 changed the course of our lives. Our movements were restricted and wearing masks turned out to be the new norm. But those with a fashion bone were quick to reinvent. and how. A few days following the lockdown, our social media handles began to be populated with face masks - all kinds of them. Personalisation is the buzzword in the fashion industry, and the good, old face mask seems to be benefiting from it. From see-through options to sequined to word-heavy to diamond-studded options, who thought we'd be spoilt for choice?
No, face masks are not new to fashion. They have often appeared on runways. But since fashion responds to the social and cultural milieu of the time, the reasons for masks being spotlighted on runways have varied. French designer Marine Serre, for instance, has showcased designer face masks on the ramp before, responding to the need to protect oneself from air pollution. In 2016, Givenchy came up with a line of face masks that underlined femininity. Today, as many UAE-based brands set out to establish their own aesthetic, it is leading to interesting experimentation.
As they set out to make cool and trendy masks, many brands are having to address some key questions - comfort being one. Mariam Yeya, founder of homegrown label Mrs Keepa, says mask designing is still relatively new to many brands in the region, which means there are always hits and misses. But she bases her designs on a few fundamental factors. "A fabric of choice is the first important factor as good quality material is a must for the product's sustainability, especially because a reusable mask would require frequent washing. So we kept in mind two things: zero per cent polyester to avoid any skin rashes and light 100 per cent cotton lining for breathability," she says.

A sequined mask by Mrs Keepa
Another important factor, says Maryam, is pattern and design. "We needed to make sure we created safe designs with maximum coverage without compromising on the aesthetic." To aid that, the brand has used exciting fabric prints as well as texture from denims, tie-dyes and camouflage prints to sequins and other handmade couture pieces. Even as the brand continues to experiment, Maryam says comfort is assessed through breathability, any face discomfort or rashes from the fabric's proximity to the skin, and the elasticity of the band.
Arshia Shroff, project manager at Regal Fabrics that has just launched its line of face masks, adds that jersey and cotton remain preferred fabrics as they are stretchy and breathable, while a synthetic option like polyester can stick to the face and is far less comfortable on the skin.
While adults are literally spoilt for choice, only few brands are customising face masks for children. Which is why Arshia says that the demand for face masks for kids is high at her store's website and shop. Interestingly, many companies too are reaching out to the brand in order to create personalised face masks for their staff with a positive message accompanying their branding.
While social distancing will remain the norm in the future, as lockdown restrictions ease around the world, more people will mingle socially. Fashion also creates status quos, and it is quite possible that this segment may also see a premium avatar. Recently, French jewellery designer Valerie Messika showed the way when she shared a prototype of a diamond-studded mask.
The designer says the idea came with a peek into what the new normal could look like. "During quarantine, I was inspired by many things as we all slowed down and this sentiment continued once the lockdown was over and we started to return to the 'new normal'. It felt natural to conceptualise a mask as part of my signature collection, Move. With its three diamonds, the symbolism of movement has never been stronger, but not only that, Move reflects a vision of love, a feeling that is unconditional and lives in the past, present and future," says the designer. Messika is not unaware of the lure of a diamond-studded mask. "I couldn't help but dream of a mask being a style accessory rather than just medical protection but for now, it'll remain a dream that I may continue to build on."
One of the immediate trends in face masks these days are ones with personal messages inscribed on them. DIFC-based menswear brand Mischief has been customising messages for its clients and its co-founder Silmi Dhrolia says that many of them are messages of hope. "Many of them are about finding calm in the middle of chaos. It makes them feel better, and also those who look at them. Some of the most touching messages we have received are for the elderly that would read, 'Breathe, you are strong.' Others read, 'If you're reading this, don't forget to smile.'"

A mask by Aina
There is no denying the power of positive messaging in the time of Covid. It is uplifting not just for the wearer but also the onlooker. A lifestyle brand, Aina marries its trademark fine embroidery with quirky messaging. As soon as the lockdown was announced, its founder Sidrah Zahid began to think of ways to bring the ethos of her brand to a new range of face masks. "I just wanted a motivation for people to wear it to stay safe and cute. I came up with a message that read 'The New Lipstick' because a lot of us are not wearing lipsticks anymore because of masks. Other ones read 'Have a great smile'," says Sidrah. "I think people are also finding positivity in quirky messaging."

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