Fashion is something that is always in vogue, picking up the latest popular trend around the world and 2020 has given us a new accessory to flaunt. As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage many parts of the world, medical experts and scientists had emanated the importance of wearing face masks to combat the infection. Facial masks have been the most active companion, providing us with protection against the spread of the deadly virus.
But sometimes, the masks can be difficult to wear since we are not used to them, they can be suffocating and sweaty or might fog up our glasses, but they are the life saviours during this crisis. And what is more important than life, right?
Despite the difficult situation the world is going through, the fashion industry has found the positive side to it and turned the bad break into a productive opportunity. Facemasks have been recently added to the list of essentials in the wardrobe of a fashion enthusiast. Various fashion brands and local manufacturers are selling handmade or designer face masks with aesthetics in mind. From colourful to floral patterns, they provide the customers with something quirky and bright-coloured apart from the boring blue and white surgical or N-95 masks. Social media sites like WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram are filled with advertising pictures of handmade or designer masks to attract more customers and increase sales. Fashion bloggers, models and influencers throughout the world are trying to promote the latest fashion trend through flaunting different styles of facial masks, convincing even the most reluctant person to try it.
Najooka Javier and her mother, Manjusha run an online store called 'Tohfa-the gift of a kind' based in Mumbai and have been engaged in the mask-making business since the lockdown was announced. "We have been making masks since the beginning of the lockdown, and we have got a good response from people. We use pure cotton, but different kinds like- Ikat, Kalamkari, Dabu (handmade styles of cotton) to make masks and everyone seems to really appreciate it. We have been getting a lot of orders from people to make colour specific masks also," said Najooka, who also is a culture and lifestyle expert at Sakal Times.
"These masks are reusable, easy to wash, long-lasting and eco-friendly, which makes them different from the regular masks. I have come across a lot of people complaining that they feel congested in masks or face difficulty in breathing, but since our masks are all cotton, it is easier to breathe, and you don't feel congested," she added. The mother-daughter duo supports 'no plastic' and tries to promote eco-friendly living through their products.
However, the masks are not only limited to designs and patterns. Several dealers and manufacturers are producing masks with logos of football and cricket clubs to attract sports enthusiasts. Anit Naha, an MBA student from Kolkata, is involved in the online marketing of face masks with logos of West Bengal based football clubs, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. "The masks are made of pure cotton with three-layer protection. Initially, when they were introduced in the market for the first time, people went crazy about it since the masks flaunted the logo and design of their respective royal clubs. The sale surged as customers began ordering these masks for the love of their clubs. I have even met some people who thought that the logo of their favourite clubs would protect them from the deadly virus."
According to the researchers, handmade cloth masks are a better option than the surgical or regular masks available in the market since the data and evidence shows that cloth masks can reduce risk of contamination and are more comfortable to wear.
Debanjana Roy from Kolkata has been working on making colourful handmade masks at affordable rates. "We have been making handmade masks since the coronavirus lockdown was declared, but it was not for sale initially as we used to make and wear it among ourselves, i.e. our family members. But slowly people started liking designs, colours and material that we used, that's when we decided to sell and distribute them. We make colourful handmade three-layer masks which are quite affordable and protective as well than the regular N-95 masks which most people cannot afford. We have a fixed price range of Rs 50."
"I have been getting calls for orders from North Bengal and Odisha but was unable to deliver due to the lockdown, but now we have resumed our delivery services all over India. I hope I will receive requests for making matching masks with the outfits as well. Currently, I am planning to design some wedding masks since it's in fashion and the wedding season is already here," Debanjana added.
Khushali Thakkar, a fashion influencer says, "Masks in different funky patterns, colours and styles are totally in trend in the current scenario and I kind of like them. Anything that you can carry well is a fashion, and wearing masks is not a different thing."
However, masks are being made to preserve the culture and heritage of states as well. Vishal Poi Cacodo and Digambar Kamat from Goa have created handmade cotton masks made of the Kunbi fabric (an age-old tribal fabric of Goa). "I decided to come up with masks made of the infamous Kunbi fabric to promote the heritage saree of the state, the Kunbi saree and encourage our Goan culture. Since the weave was disappearing, this initiative brought back the lost precognition of the fabric as people started flaunting pictures of kunbi fabric masks," said Vishal.
Apart from this, many fashion brands are coming up with funky masks with quotes on it like 'no flirting today,' 'stay away from me,' 'dur reh', and others to make them more attractive.
Despite the vaccine attempts, there's little clarity at the moment. In all probability, the virus-scare will continue to petrify us for long and therefore, in all likelihood, the mask-wearing trend will remain one of the hottest ones of 2020 and even beyond.
(Sneha Das is a freelance journalist based out of Kolkata.)