Protection with a pinch of fashion

Public use of face masks has been common in China and other nations in Asia since the beginning of the new corona virus disease outbreak. Masks have now become an inevitable chunk of life. Initially, masks were mostly used in hospitals for treatment and surgeries but now, as the pandemic struck the world, every other person we see is masked. Gone are the days when a masked person was considered ill or a patient of some disease.

Wearing masks could be a part of a major cultural change and considering this, the textile companies are walking a long way to add a bit of style to the protection. Fashion gurus along with apparel stores are making sure that this market gets exploited to the fullest by producing innovative masks. Fashionable cloth masks are in huge demand nowadays. People have accepted to live with this shield and exhibit.

The Mask Mania

Social media feed is flooded by the trendy face masks that the local apparel stores have churned out.

Cotton fabric mask, double layer/triple layer mask in a breathable fabric, masks for babies, masks with cartoons for younger kids, fashionable masks to match your western outfits, masks to match your Indian suits and so that cool dudes don’t feel left out, there are masks with cool slogans too!

Masks with quirky slogans are out in the market. Source : @craftisitics, Instagram

And let us ‘face’ it, these masks are very inviting. Some masks declare your state of mind with tongue in cheek slogans, some have lip emojis focusing on conveying your thoughts through the curve of the lip, masks with a transparent layer around lips have also entered the market so that the lipstick industry does not die! So, you fall in the trap. For how long can you ignore the fact that you have been using a few disposable ugly looking masks so far? You do not wear fancy shoes, new clothes or even make up these days to go out of the house. All efforts are directed at making sure that you have a mask on your face to fight corona. A face mask is not just a new fashion accessory in our world but it is an essential item. It is here to stay and it is here to flaunt.

Raymond Entering the Game

Raymond Logo. Source : Google Images

Raymond, the brand, and company, best known for making menswear and fabrics, has pivoted to use its factories to produce a suite of safety products which it calls Complete Care by Raymond. The new range, which is the most exhaustive amongst that being made by larger companies, will include disposable and reusable masks, personal protection equipment suits in three price ranges, shoe covers, gloves and sanitizer products that include hand washes and cleansers. While the company is clear that it is addressing the needs of a pandemic, no sartorial attention has been lost in design judging by the range offered.

Estimating the market size for masks at around ₹10,000 – 12,000 crore, Ram Bhatnagar, Vice President and Head – Sales, Raymond said a bulk of this market is going to be for ‘fashion masks’ while the remaining will include medical/surgical masks.

Leading textile and fashion brands such as Shoppers Stop, Fabindia, VIP Clothing, Zodiac and Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail brands such as Peter England, Allen Solly, Louis Phillipe and Van Heusen have all come up with creative designer masks to match with their collections.

Couples setting #lockdownwedding goals. Source : Agencies

The textile industry is gearing up and making variety of masks as people are increasingly becoming safety conscious and are seen wearing face masks as they step out, Prabhu Damodaran, Convenor of Indian Texpreneurs Federation (ITF) said adding that, “already around 75 of our member companies have started mask manufacturing.”

Mask of Stars

Protective face masks tend to hide one’s identity and facial features, but in Tamil Nadu, India masks themselves are having a face of their own. Mask wearers are now sporting printed masks of their favorite Indian stars such as Rajinikanth, Vijay, Ajith and Surya.

This trend has caught up over the last few days after textile exporters in the state’s knitwear and textile export hub Tirupur, Tamil Nadu decided to give masks a new face. In recent times the orders for customized masks have piled up from various corporates, schools and even political parties.

Masks having imprints of Bollywood Stars. Source : Wion

With protective face masks becoming an inseparable accessory since the start of the lockdown, textile manufacturers and exporters from Tamil Nadu’s Tirupur have started making cloth masks. While the mainstay of the textile industry is export-quality garments, the lockdown has given rise to more makers of cloth masks.

“We have been in the garments export business for about 24 years, but during this lockdown with the limited staff we started making cloth masks to cater to the rising demand,” said Chandrakumar, CEO Sentinel clothing.

With sales and export of garments having nearly dried up during the lockdown, the garment industries have been churning out masks and PPEs in a few thousand every day, with the help of limited staff who are turning up for work. The same equipment that are used for garment manufacturing are now being reassigned to make masks.

Some International Brands in competition

While face masks are now being adopted to reduce the spread of COVID-19, they are quickly becoming an everyday fashion accessory here to stay. Many international brands have penetrated the market and are coming out with luxury designer face masks. Both small businesses and established labels alike – are rallying to make face masks accessible and have a “buy one, donate one” policy. Others are repurposing left-over materials to reduce waste and up-cycle. For example, Russian designer, renowned for her high-tech fabrics, Lena Karnauhova, this time around picked a simple organic linen to make masks capable of holding up to several laundry cycles, and be as close to a natural feeling as possible.

Mask designed by Russian Designer, Lena Karnauhova. Source : @lenakarnauhova, Instagram

Embellished couture masks might not seem the most practical of options, but for up-and-coming label Voravaj Bangkok, “couture is life.” Designer Voravaj Varazatiravatt was experimenting with face-masks long before the outbreak of Covid-19, as Bangkok’s air pollution has turned face-masks into a wardrobe staple.

Remarkable stylish masks by Designer Voravaj Varazatiravatt of Bangkok. Source : @voravaj_official, Instagram

Some other brands and designers in line with these are Juliya Kros in Ukraine, Studio & Talia, based in St. Petersburg, Russia, Whimsy + Row of Los Angeles and many more. All these textile businesses are bringing out the creative angle of face masks making them a stylish accessory.