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Get the lockdown look: face masks the next big thing in fashion

Now an essential part of everyone’s daily wardrobe, face masks are being embraced by fashion as a lucrative new product category with huge potential.

Amongst 2020’s unexpected twists and turns is the mainstreaming of face masks which, both fashionable and functional, are taking the apparel industry by storm. Currently a wardrobe staple, designers and high street retailers alike are beginning to realise the potential of tapping into the lucrative market, launching their own lines dedicated entirely to the essential accessory.

With Virgil Abloh’s Off-White masks selling for up to $250 on eBay at the moment – quickly becoming the most searched-for menswear product online this year (according to the Lyst Index) – there’s simply no denying the mass-appeal for more unique protective coverings. And brands are sure taking note.

Releasing its three-layer Airism masks in Japan earlier this month, Uniqlo was positively ahead of the game. Prompting overnight queues for the reusable items worldwide, the launch marked the beginning of a new international trend, one that’s kickstarted a veritable flood of masks onto a market that’s already looking to be relatively saturated. The key to succeeding therefore, is to innovate rapidly and continuously. ‘You must change really quickly,’ says manufacturer Monica Sarti, whose company immediately switched from making scarves to masks as the pandemic began traversing the globe. ‘Otherwise people get bored.’

How face masks became a fashion statement – in stylish circles ...

From a medical necessity to an accessory as important as jewellery or a handbag, masks are now the fastest evolving category in fashion, and recent scientists’ approval is heavily driving sales. They’re also an easy product to make, and demand is set to remain strong for the foreseeable future.

In fact, a survey from Hanes uncovered that 93% of Americans who own a mask plan to keep wearing one for the next five months and 27% choose which one to purchase based on its look and fabric.

‘Interest is unlike anything I’ve seen during my time in business,’ adds Sarti. ‘But it makes sense. Everybody’s got to wear a mask, regardless of age, regardless of, you know, how wealthy you are, regardless of how fashionable you are. So if you’re going to have to wear a mask, you may as well have it look good.’

Discarded face masks and gloves create plastic pollution

It’s also extremely good news in terms of sustainability, as leading environmentalist campaigners warn that single-use masks are now a bigger polluter than single-use plastic.

‘If every person in the UK wore a single-use face mask every day for a year, it would create an extra 57,000 tonnes of hard-to-recycle plastic and an extra 66,000 tonnes of contaminated PPE waste,’ says co-founder of The Beach Guardian Project, Emily Stevenson. ‘The fact that fashion has decided to get on board with producing reusable masks is certainly promising, and I hope people will be more inclined to spend a little extra if it means saving the planet.’

So, if the mask you’ve been using in recent weeks is looking a little worse-for-wear, why not check out this list for more info on where to get a new (super fashionable and sustainable) one. I’ll definitely be securing a couple to mix-and-match with my summer outfits.